Gaby Bedetti 

This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land


I stopped last night to enjoy a duo play “On the Banks of the Ohio”
across from the Belle of Louisville. The banjo player sang beautiful harmony.
I added my voice to their next song, Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”

This morning, on my break from reading English Lit essays
I noticed two cats in harness and leash
on a stone bench in front of the Convention Center.
Next to them, Jeremy from North Carolina sat cross-legged.
KJ, I learned, was abandoned by an owner in California;
Salem was a feral cat from Mississippi—some company for KJ.
As I turned to go inside, Jeremy leaned over and kissed KJ.

I looked for Jeremy on my lunch break. He was still there.
He mentioned that the police had ticketed him.
While someone asked him about the cats,
I put a $5 bill in a discreet metal cup next to KJ and Salem.
Jeremy offered me his story—how he’d left home at sixteen, and is now thirty-seven,
how he had picked up what looked to be a kid’s bike at the armory,
how when he travels by plane, the cats lie quietly in an athletic bag.
Sometimes he hitchhikes. For a while he worked for the circus.
I wondered if any of what he said was true—
and then I decided his whole life was true.
That’s how he got his teeth knocked out, he said,
pitching tents.

After lunch I brought him coffee and a baked apple.
I don’t know if he remembered me and the cats looked weary.
But I wanted to know why he became a traveler. “Good question,” he said,
adding, “the adventure, I guess. I think I’ll stay in Louisville for a while now.”
I never introduced myself, and he asked nothing of me.
I shook his hand, slipped into the building,
and washed mine.




Gabriella Bedetti is Associate Professor of English at Eastern Kentucky University. Henri Meschonnic’s American translator, she received her PhD in comparative literature from the University of Iowa. She co-teaches Page-to-Stage: Imagining the Military Experience in Iraq. When not bridging worlds in honors seminar, she publishes on creativity in general education. She can be reached at