Thursday, March 09, 2006

Thirteen Ways of Playing the Dozens

If you know my work, you know there's a couple of poems where I have beef with Wallace Stevens (Monday Poem, The Idea of Improvisation), there are several reasons for this, but at least one of them is that I'm not a big fan of his work. I respect his technical facility and ear, but all that 'jerking the poem to the left until it turns on itself' bullshit gets annoying after a while. He's also one of the few major American poets who was openly racist in his work (he titled one poem 'Like Decorations in a Nigger Cemetery') Anyway, I don't get mad, I get even, this is my riff on his famous Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

(This poem is of one mind,
like a crayon box
in which there are
twelve blues.)

Anyway here's the piece:


Along the guitar's six strings,
The only moving thing
Is the hand of the Blues.

I am of two minds,
Like a blues
Which makes you laugh,
Then cry.

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and the Blues
Are one.

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inhalations
Or the beauty of exhalations,
The Blues harmonica moans.

Bottles line the long bar

With exquisite glass.
The spirit of the Blues

Fills them, bottom to top.
The sound casts
Intoxicating spells.

O Snowmen of Hartford,
Why do you imagine blackbirds?
Do you not see how the Blues
Caress the collarbones
Of the women around you?

I know sassy women
And joyous, laughing rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the Blues is involved
In what I know.

When the Blues flow out of earshot,
They cause a rising tide
in many rivers.

At the sound of the Blues
In a district of red light,
Even violinists of the symphony
Would smile openly.


He rode through Mississippi
In a boxcar.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The moan of a passing train
For the Blues.

A bad moon is rising.
The Blues must be playing.

It was midnight all evening.
It was raining
And it was going to rain.
The Blues colored
The clouds.
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