blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1




Gonna bust in on this signifyin'
Somebody's got to go
               —Sonny Boy Williamson

"Too much of a straight-arrow" you called me—because I didn't go along
and pretend you made up the story of the midget who used to be

in my band. He had played euphonium, trumpet
and valve-trombone, his arms too short for a slide.

I came off the stage and sat down just as you were describing him.
If only I had shown a moment's surprise—

after all, though you had actually seen him, heard him, everyone else
could only know the current line-up. And with all those shot glasses

scattered around the table, and your jive reputation,
Plato would have banned you from his Republic

with good reason. I could have laughed conspiratorially,
"Oh yeah, sure, Gus, I . . . forgot about him. Sure."

Then, when they gave you that look you usually deserve
you would have had your chance to splutter and curse me.

Particularly if you had left out the valve-trombone,
a choice detail that gives leverage to any joke or poem.

If only I had played it right, the others in our booth
could have doubted forever the existence of the little man

who was no longer there, not to mention
his ex-wife who was no longer with him,

or his broken heart, which is only
a figure of speech, you know.  

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