Diann Blakely

 

 

(USA)

 

 

 

IF I HAD POSSESSION OVER JUDGMENT DAY

 

Enough of God.  Enough of witnesses.

O turn your face to the room’s wall

And sing, poor Bob.  O sing damnation past drawn shades

More cracked with light than mine.  Bowls fill

With melting ice; fan blades shift, dangerous

 

In the choked air.  A man’s brought you to Texas,

Twice, to needle songs—I went

To the mountain, looked as far as my eyes could see

On waxy plates.  Brought you a pint,

And let’s drink to that first crowd’s sweaty laughs,

 

Also your last girlfriend’s.  O vengeful solo:

You didn’t like the way she done

And swore she’d have no right to pray.  Tears prick my throat

As if you’d damned me too, as one

Who makes her songs from scaredy-cat bravado

 

And flirts with others’ dues.  Enough of love—

Aren’t we both vagrants of the South,

You born from autumn trysts, black knees splayed in high cotton;

I from a history of shut mouths

And families gone?  Lead me beyond the eaves

 

Of sleeping women’s shacks, where you once stayed

Till dawn, your fingers muting still

The knife-edged chords that beckon toward a possessed heart . . .

Mine’s followed you to Texan hell,

Though walls melt down to echoes as you play

 

And curse God’s vast shining back: don’t throw me out.

Here’s another pint.  Another hymn

From a white girl whose call craves your response, shades drawn

Against false stars . . .  Trouble gon’ come:

Lead me, like whiskey and wept judgments, down.

 

 

From Rain in Our Door: Duets with Robert Johnson (White Pine Press, 2018)

First published in Crab Orchard Review

 

 

 

ME AND THE DEVIL BLUES

 

And he said Bastard.  He said Mama’s Boy.

You said you hated chopping cotton, the sun

 

Above your head like God’s hot blinding eye.

You hated greens and your stepfathers too.

 

You loved your Sears and Roebuck harp, and wire

You’d strung along the shack’s unpainted door,

 

The wire you plucked until your fingers bled.

Me and the Devil was walking side by side,

 

You sang once your first wife—Virginia—died,

And your first baby too.  You hated blood.

 

You hated blood unless it slow-pulsed tunes

Inside your cotton-headed dreams.  Or varnished

 

The guitar that Satan tuned one night, the moon

Above your head like God’s cold blinding eye.

 

Me and the Devil was walking side by side,

You sang when love had mixed with the road’s dirt,

 

The dirt that was your love’s address; I’m gon’

To beat my woman till I get satisfied.

 

And then you said Alone Alone Alone.

The Devil smiled and asked Who loves you best?

 

 

From Rain in Our Door: Duets with Robert Johnson (White Pine Press, 2018)

First published in Crab Orchard Review

 

 

 

I’M A STEADY ROLLING MAN

 

Almost in Kentucky, the state that gave

My country ’tis of thee two armored foes

Named Abe Lincoln and Jeff Davis, who rolled    

 

Both night and day to let their people go,

The Fugitives, with rhyming grave,

Exalted a post-bellum woe

 

For yeoman farms plowed red by Scalawags.

I’m the man that rolls when icicles hang    

On the tree, you hitched rides here to sing, and moaned

 

So even dead Confederates knew your slang

And called for an encore.  Their flag

Still flies from pick-up trucks adorned

 

With gun racks and, on chilly autumn nights,

Trussed, jacklighted deer.  Some drivers went

To one country funeral to lift beer cans

 

To their hard workin’, steady rollin’ friend

And—maybe—Ku Kluxer Knights,

Who never bought the farm or banned

 

Their own, in town called Rednecks and White Trash

Since long before moth-speckled porches shined

And girls bought their first radios.  You can’t                                 

 

Give your sweet woman ev’thing she wants at one time   

And men know this, and o these relished

Darkness plowed with bullets’ steely tint                                                                                      

But heard no classmate sing from that crashed truck,

Nor his young wife’s duet.  O Dixie’s pride

Still croons Nigger, still sings the Klan reborn

 

In last century’s flamed youth; and there’s no rhyme

For gelding knives, nor Emmett Till,

Whose boy’s voice in a country store

 

Bragged Chicago, where he had white girlfriends:

She gets ramblin’ in her brain, other men      

On her mind.  More rope.  A gin wheel.  Don’t look away

From fugitives, you and the murdered man

Just might agree.  And his black friends,

Now jailed, like you sing They and We.

 

 

 

 

From Rain in Our Door: Duets with Robert Johnson (White Pine Press, 2018)

First published in Callaloo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BIO

 

Diann Blakely (June 1, 1957 – August 5, 2014) was an American poet, essayist, editor, and critic. She taught at Belmont University, Harvard University, Vanderbilt University, the Watkins Arts Institute, and served as the first poet-in-residence at the Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, Tennessee. A Robert Frost Fellow at Bread Loaf, she was a Dakin Williams Fellow at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. She won two Pushcart Prizes and has been anthologized in numerous volumes, including Best American Poetry 2003.

Her first collection, Hurricane Walk, was listed among the year’s ten best by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; her second book, Farewell, My Lovelies, was named a Choice of the Academy of American Poets’ Book Society; and her third volume, Cities of Flesh and the Dead, won the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America as well as the 7th Annual Publication Prize from Elixir Press.

She was poetry editor at Antioch Review and New World Writing. Her poetry collection Lost Addresses: New & Collected Poems was published by Salmon Poetry in 2017; Rain in Our Door: Duets with Robert Johnson was published by White Pine Press in 2018, and Each Fugitive Moment: Essays, Memoirs, and Elegies on Lynda Hull is forthcoming from MadHat Press

 

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