It's the blue note, the worried note—the flatted third, fifth, and the seventh. The smell of another off a lover's clothes, smear of lipstick on a motel mirror. It's a record of protest, the seismograph of every working-class gripe. The tidal magnificence of every spoonful for the starving, and the underdog that nips at the heels of the overfed. It's the love-song of a bullfrog. The green eyes of a city girl on a trolley car as the doors close. Blues: a hangman wringing his hands in the murky twilight. River catching rain, river of America, river of blood, mud and bones. Reefer blues and mongrel moans, gypsy mojo and goofer dust. Deep in the hills, the indigo purr of a moon-soaked night. A doublewide shot- gun house and the words HIPSTERS—KEEP OFF etched on its crumbling steps. It’s Miles Davis, bluesman—said "you don't play better ‘cause you've suffered." Just wanna listen, lay back to the
soothsayer's shuffle. It's John Lee Hooker singing "It Serves You Right To Suffer” and I am not suffering. I’m sitting in the back of an air-conditioned cab, sipping a Coke. A cultural tourist seeking a little juke-joint romance, I suppose. Along the canals of Metairie, the cab driver states plainly that the haves & have-nots were not separated by skin. Everyone’s shit was floating, man. Shimmering in the muddy twilight. Choppers dropping MREs amidst shotgun blasts, ravaged landscape soaked with feces. No voodoo cure for indifference. Everybody watched the TV broadcast images. Down
in the funk. “That sure was messed up…”—all I can say. Look at that
schoolhouse, goddamn. Still not finished painting over the brown-speckled water line that went higher than the roof of this car. Drive on. Sweat-glazed in the humidity of ferns and wood rot. In front of a drive-thru daiquiri shop, a young man with a terrible limp signals with a peace sign for the taxicab to stop. It’s the sunset’s golden throat stretching long and wailing over the south shores of Lake Pontchartrain.
Live at Duke’s
Freeing wild arpeggios, infernal
melodies, a look of possession,
like a Pentecostal snake handler—
speaking in tongues, sentiment
and sleaze, sampling nectars
sweet and real—the harmonica
player plays by ear, by the seat
of his pants. Plays hard to get—
discord and harmony—flirtation,
purgation of the lost and lonely.
Pounces on rhythm, growls, purrs,
hisses, cries. A tiger to a kitten to
a dog in heat. The harmonica player
is literally breathing music. Flesh-
reeds, vibrating marrow. Ears share
ether with the throat. Held by the
lips, each note comes entirely from
within. There could be little else.
So intimate, yeah? Tweaking the
body's utterance. From the chest,
the diaphragm, the groin. Body
sneaks, writes the blues when the
caretaker-mind is out on a smoke
break. Overcome by voices beyond
the edge of knowing, between truth
and meaning. Crude, unrefined,
nerves abuzz—Blessed and Foolish—
it's the sorcerer's art, conjurer of
ghost-language and sonic alchemy.
Listen, the harmonica player’s
name is Smokey. Of course. He
sings some kind of ruined Eden.
He sings—was a prisoner of love,
but his girl set him free. Sex,
hunger and survival—betrayal’s
just the next tune, another song.
Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, Chris D’Errico writes poems, plays blues harmonica and works the grave-shift as a low-level government employee in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he shares a home with his wife and a small clouder of cats. He is the author of four poetry collections: The Meat Game (Thunder Sandwich, 2005), Debris Of Hearts (OffCenter Press, 2007), Vegas Implosions & Exterminator Chronicles (Virgogray Press, 2011), and Ministry of Kybosh (Virgogray Press, 2012). For more, visit www.clderrico.com.