Some folks will tell you the blues is a woman,
Some type of supernatural creature.
My mother would tell you, if she could,
About her life with my father,
A strange and sometimes cruel gentleman.
She would tell you about the choices
A young black woman faces.
Is falling in love with some man
A deal with the devil
In blue terms, the tongue we use
When we don’t want nuance
To get in the way,
When we need to talk straight.
My mother chooses my father
After choosing a man
Who was, as we sing it,
Of no account.
This man made my father look good,
That’s how bad it was.
He made my father seem like an island
In the middle of a stormy sea,
He made my father look like a rock.
And is the blues the moment you realize
You exist in a stacked deck,
You look in a mirror at your young face,
The face my sister carries,
And you know it’s the only leverage
Does this create a hurt that whispers
How you going to do?
Is the blues the moment
You shrug your shoulders
And agree, a girl without money
Is nothing, dust
To be pushed around by any old breeze.
Compared to this,
My father seems, briefly,
To be a fire escape.
This is the way the blues works
Its sorry wonders,
Makes trouble look like
A feather bed,
Makes the wrong man’s kisses
- Cornelius Eady
This poem talks about the poet’s mother and her life through the prism of the blues, the lovely and melancholy genre where the women are alone, the men are no good, the money is tight, and love a cruel joke waiting to spring its trap shut.
I like the idea of music being its own language, with conventions to be followed, meanings to be explored, phrases that make you rethink things. Poetry used to be read out loud, and there is a lot to be said for the act of reading poetry out, even if it is only for an audience of one, yourself. Phrases and words fall on your ears a certain way, and you get an appreciation for how the syllables sound in your mouth, are able to chew it over meditatively.
You can hear the poet read out the poem here on the Poetry Foundation site.
You can read more about the poet here and here. You can read interviews with the poet on BOMB magazine, Notre Dame Magazine, and Sampsonia Way.