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.

 

 

 

Not a Father’s Day Poem

Father’s Day

The cop leans over to light a cigarette
out of the wind coming off Lake Michigan
straightens as I pass him
his face full of broken capillaries
red and hard and pocked
like my father’s from years
of hard drinking

The cop smiles
but I haven’t heard from my dad
in years so I just look away

Browsing the poetry shelves
in a used bookstore on Milwaukee Avenue
I pull Sharon Olds’ book about her father
who dies in several poems
near the middle

The poems evoke a good strong man
whose daughter loves him so much
she has to write an entire book
to process her grief

Because they are beautiful
and I cannot write such poems
about my own father
I buy the book
put it on my shelf
where it stays

unopened


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