Downhearted Blues

I gets up in the morning with the blues
3 different ways
I have two mind to leave here
I didn’t have but one say staySon House “Louise McGhee”

I am just gathering thoughts here.

My final department meeting was last week. I still have a job, for now. I will become part of a large department at a four-year comprehensive UW school, and we have yet to begin the task of figuring out how that will work, what it will look like, especially in light of program closures at UW-Superior and UW-Stevens Point.

I have been feeling paralyzed by grief and rage at the dissolving of my institution, the University of Wisconsin Colleges.

To say that my resolve to keep doing this job has been crippled by more than 3 years of continuous shock-and-awe reorganizing and restructuring is an understatement. So far it hasn’t helped me to know that my feelings are echoed by my colleagues all around Wisconsin, all of whom get up and keep doing the best they can at their jobs.

I get up in the morning every Monday after a night of severely broken sleep to face my students who are either a) very worried about what this new change means for them, or b) not worried because we (faculty and staff) have been able to maintain a semblance of normal operations for them over the past several years of continual budget cuts. I do my best to teach them what they will need in future semesters to be successful students and citizens, no matter where they end up.

Then I eat lunch at my desk while reading emails and downloading documents related to the very large committee I’m a part of that has some fairly enormous tasks ahead of it.

Then I drive 35 minutes to the other campus. Then I have a 90-minute meeting that lately has just been us coming up with all of the questions we don’t have answers to (yet) but that have to be answered before any substantive work can be done. (This is repeated ad nauseum for all of my colleagues across the UW System, some of whom have three or more multi-hour meetings per week plus their full 4 course load.)

Then I drive 70 minutes to my house, with my thoughts chasing each other on the hamster wheel that passes for my brain at the close of the day.

It’s a shame, a lowdown dirty shame.

And it’s not sustainable.

The day my third mind to stay changes to “leave” will be an interesting day.






On Honeyboy Edwards

On Honeyboy Edwards

Washing dishes is blues music so Pandora brings me
Charley Patton’s “Bo Weevil” beamed down and a shiver
of recognition goes up my spine a shiver of collapsed
time to 1998 when I shivered in another cold wind
off Lake Michigan head tucked into pea coat to visit some
Chicago Southside apartment down some little dim
stairwell into the elderly bluesman’s bedroom dragging
kitchen chairs across green checkered linoleum
around the bed while he picked up a red guitar
and became Honeyboy with a smile when I asked him
to play “Pony Blues” he picked his way through weeds
of memory picked his way to call up Charley Patton for me
raised Charley Patton from the Delta cotton fields for me
picked and slid a bottleneck over the strings and raised the dead for me
And if he sees me now he’s saying  with a laugh
“Little girl why you cryin’ in your kitchen
for the voices of the dead?”
Why am I crying for the voices of the dead
raised now and caught in ones and zeroes
in a web I can’t see

1st draft
16 April 2018
Sometimes new work up and smacks you in the face. And sometimes your husband has to tell you to go sit and write it down. And you do.

I was pretty lucky to have met Honeyboy, even luckier to have been invited into his home, luckier still to have a personal request–“Pony Blues“–played for me. A song he learned from Charley Patton himself. Especially when as we were leaving my companions looked at me and said “We’ve been trying to get him to play that for us for years, and you just walked in and smiled and asked nicely and he just did it. For you.”

I never really consciously traded on being pretty, but looking back on it I think a pretty girl asked him nicely and he said OK. Simple. And flattering, all these years later, to think of it while washing dishes and staring out the window when Charley Patton comes on.