Today's poem is by Betsy Sholl
A Song in There
To stave off trouble, the old bluesmen are singing,
without a doubt, singing-on doorsteps, in bare yards
with folding chairs tipsy on tree roots. No tape rolling,
no old rattling film, no spotlight, gold tooth, big car.
Forgive me, my heroes, for thinking this tragic,
that a front porch with crickets and night fog
isn't enough, a dusty juke joint with straw-strewn floor
buoyant under sore but dancing feet.
I want to believe that even books burned to ash
were worth the long nights of their making, that a song
drifting on invisible waves still exists somewhere
however faint, washing an unknown shore.
You who were not recorded to be touched up
and played back later, did you love the raw world more,
love the shy songbird's refusal to be seen?
Oh my mentors, you who'd hear a minor chord,
a blue note struck two fields away, and amble over
to swell the sound, joining the blue breakup, break down,
the song talking back to the battered life, forgive me
for even once wanting to sit in the sleek car
airbrushing through town. In its wake the world
resumes, briar and dust, heartbeat and sky, nest
squalling with hunger. And there, broke or flush,
blind or sighted, you sang. Traveling by hay wagon,
boxcar, jalopy, fingers like knotted sticks, a thicket
in your voice, on unpaved corners for spare change,
you sang. Over you the clouds would bundle and shred,
the night send out sparks. Then earth closed over.
Now the air's full of echo and remix.
Still, in my mind's graveyard, I am laying flowers
at your unmarked feet, fingering the braille
of a tree's lichened trunk, all splotch and ridge
your monument, bearing wounds where
limbs were cut off. I know the music's in there, somewhere
rising, root thirst and bent note, a song in there,
clotted or crooned, heart strummed and rising.
Copyright © 2007 Betsy Sholl All rights reserved
from Beloit Poetry Journal
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission
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