Chasing the Blues

When I first started writing seriously in my late 20s, about 99% of my poems were about music and musicians. I was living in Chicago, falling in love with the blues… and bluesmen. I’d follow my favorite bands around town, taking notes during their performances when I wasn’t learning how to drink Manhattans up at the Green Mill. The Mighty Blue Kings, Jimmy Sutton’s Four Charms, The Barclay Three, Ross Bon, Joel Paterson—these were the names, the notes, the line breaks and heartbreaks that filled my notebooks. It took me a long time to discover why I kept chasing  the blues. In fact, I didn’t figure it out till I was 700 miles away, couldn’t count on jukes full of blues anymore, and had started to write about about father-men with wings in their backs, mothers who broke their children, women with empty hands and howling hearts. This poem from my first chapbook Blues for a Pretty Girl was, I think, the last poem I’ll ever write about those Chicago days, but, perhaps, in finally starting to recognize what I’d been chasing all those years, it’s actually another kind of  beginning….

“The First Time I Hear You Sing”

(for Ross Bon)

You are sweat soaked
large hands quarreling the air,
fingers hollering music.

I am small, moaning
hips, shaken loose,
didn’t know notes could

tunnel through me like this.
Harp-mouth, firemaker
you are a room shaker,

giant hands sounding
the tambourine like gunfire.
Your wide mouth a greedy lover

biting up & down the harmonica
prays up that rag doll feeling
that giving over feeling

like when the minister
slapped his oiled hand
on my forehead Feel

the power of Jesus! ‘cept
I never felt it, never fell
back into the arms of an usher

writhing with Jesus
hungry for Jesus
but here you are

the Holy Ghost coming
not as a dove not as a beam
but as breath sweet and sweaty

my body stuttering
pushed past feeling
praying in tongues.

Posted on January 24, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I think I was about twelve when an older friend sneaked me into a gig in a college in London to see Muddy Waters. I can relate.

    Marie Marshall

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