a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
with fingers calloused at the tips; not rough
share-cropper’s labor but some darker art
has left his palms un-creased, his fingers hard
as stone. He aches to play what he cannot.
A stranger by the roadside gives him pause.
A music sweeter, sadder, filled with all
the bitter wounds of earth; the knowledge of
the fall. The strings are throbbing with the loss.
How much for the guitar?
That’s not for sale.
it breaks. The heavies are your favorite.
A Stratocaster screams in sixteenth notes.
What Delta bluesman ever dreamed in punk?
The loudest ones, the fastest ones, the ones
with all the fans will get the record deal.
Your father’s Gibson pawned. Your rent unpaid.
White powder underneath your bloodied knuckles;
fist straight through the wall. The plaster crumbled
like sugar. Lately, your son is clingy.
Your wife dyes her hair again and again
but nothing brightens her, or your marriage.
Sunrise touches the dust. The truth begins
to dawn on you; a moan escapes your throat.
And now you play the song you longed to master;
how easily you bend and twist the notes.
Oh my soul, my soul is gone…
and back to life; each day you pilgrim travel
for your prize. Your sinewed arms are battle
scarred. Your shoulders are unbreakable. The
soul he lost to history: a poster
on your wall. And you wrestle the fiend.
He has three tombstones: two in the Delta,
one in Hazlehurst. To die so often
with so little sense of closure; gates of Hell
awaited him. Fretboard now untouched.
And did it scream? And did it moan and wail,
in language never heard before on earth?
His fingers pulled the notes from deep within.
The secret ones no man had ever played,
no woman either.
You better come on
in my kitchen, baby don’t you want to go?
A razor blade, the simplest tool of all.
So elegant, compact upon your table.
Row on row of promise, rows of powder:
make the music faster, make it louder.
Anne-Marie Akin is a native of Memphis, Tennessee, and never wrote a damn thing until she moved up north to Chicago and got so cold she had to write just to keep warm. She is an MFA student in Creative Nonfiction at Northwestern University, a recipient of an NEA teaching artist fellowship to Ragdale, a songwriter for Carnegie Hall’s National Lullaby Project, and a faculty member at The Old Town School of Folk Music. Her work has appeared in The Bitter Southerner, Mothers Always Write, and Pass it On, and her story “Maybe, Baby,” is in the anthology The Buddha Next Door.