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.

 

 

 

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On Fear

My childhood was spent outside. I ran through brambles and tall grass, rode my pony with no saddle or bridle–just an “Indian” bridle made of a few twists of baling twine. If I fell off (or more likely, got scraped off on a low-hanging branch), I walked until I caught her, and I got back on.

“Unless something’s broken,” my mother said more than once, “You get back on.”

One bright summer afternoon when I was about 12, I was riding with my friend April Flagg, whose family ran Herefords on the farm behind ours. She had a little Arab cross, and I had my pony–Cocoa–and we were pelting hellbent for leather across the open pasture. My pony decided that she’d had enough, and started an arc towards the barn. I wasn’t done with our running, and I pulled on the left rein to pull her back behind April’s mare. She was stronger than I was, and had a hard mouth from years of being yanked on by yahoos, including me.

She kept her arc to the barn.

Since I didn’t understand force, or physics, and I was getting pissed, I yanked hard on the left rein.

Hard enough to flip us over.

(For those of you who’ve never ridden a horse: We have reins to control the head–if you control the head, the rest of the horse has to follow. This is why, if you are ever on a runaway horse, gently guide the horse into a circle, then make the circle tighter and tighter.

Please note that this tactic will not work if you are in a forest.)

When I regained consciousness, the sky was bright blue. The first thing I did was check to make sure I hadn’t landed in a cowpie. I still had my helmet on. Then I checked to see if I remembered who I was and where I lived: 512 West Highland Road. Yep. Me.

I got up and walked–towards the barn–where I saw my pony tied to the fence. I was in the process of untying her and putting my foot back in the stirrup when my mom barreled up the driveway in our big blue Chevy van. April must have run into the house to have her mom call mine. No idea how long I was unconscious.

“What are you doing?” she yelled out the window as she threw the van into park.

“You told me to get back on if I fell off and nothing was broken. I have to get back on.” And before she could get out of the van to stop me, I swung my right leg up and over, and turned the pony away from the barn.

She did manage to get through the gate in time to stop me from going further than a few feet away. The sun was really bright, and I could tell she was scared.

She took me to the ER and was told I had a concussion, and that I should not be allowed to sleep until it was my normal bedtime. I spent the rest of the day on the dark green Springsteel couch, drinking 7-Up and watching television, none the worse for wear.


There is more to this that will come, maybe later, when I have more time. I have been trying to figure out how to get back to being that fearless kid–the kid who got back on when she fell off.

(I fell off less often than you might expect, but my last horse had a hearty, twisty buck and I liked to ride without a saddle in the middle of winter in northern Ohio. Dumb? Probably.)

While sorting through a box of old photos just now–ran across one of my mom posing in a bright purple bathing suit next to a pool–Myrtle Beach vacation, when I was 9.

I nearly drowned in that pool (saved by a stranger when I got into deep water while my dad was asleep on the deck). The gasping kind of drowning where my head popped above the surface as I launched myself straight up. I could see my dad, fast asleep in the sun.

This did not put me off swimming. I learned how to swim the following summer and we had an above-ground pool that I practically lived in during high school.

What happened to that kid? Where did she go?

Alayne and Ziggy 1988

With Ziggy (Nitzinger 1978-2010) 1988 Summit County Fair Fourth place overall Versatility thanks to our second place finish in barrel racing. He took care of me.