A Debt No Honest Man Can Pay

by Bill Yarrow

I'm sitting here listening to Nebraska and it's
breaking my heart not because it's plaintive
and brilliant but because it's taking me back
to 1982 and our baby—not even two pounds— 
in intensive care—in New York Hospital—far away
—we live in Queens—it's what we can afford—
but we see her every day—well one of us does—
via the subway—where I sit listening to Nebraska
 and Springsteen is singing about paying a debt
no honest man can pay—and I'm thinking
What is that debt? It's marriage, right? It's
love, right? It's the privilege of having a kid,
right? Not in the song but in life, in someone's
life, in my life, it is a debt, a brutally honest debt,
but you never pay it back, no one can, not with
money, not with time, not with compassion, not
with care, not with what I make, not even with
what you make, I'm not talking hospital bills,
I'm talking what forever can never be repaid

so, listen, you listen to a song whose line hits you
in your kidney and you double over as if you're
pregnant—a pregnant woman—not close—not close
enough to term—but you birth something anyway
—and one day it becomes your heart—and then
your heart gets pregnant and it gives birth to
your future which you learn is made entirely
of your past, a past where you are listening to
a song, a concept, a whole album, again and
again, over and over, the album Nebraska, which
never gets dull, never gets tired, never gets old.