I used to write about the blues
often. I used to hang out in a
blues bar so it was only
natural to describe the
burned out nature of most
Chicago blues musicians.
There was a hollow soulfulness
to their singing.
It sounded like
their soul had been scooped
out at one time, punched in the
face repeatedly, kicked in the stomach,
spat upon and then shoved back
into their bodies.
They wore the blues on
their faces like a worn
out metaphor to describe
the blues on a blues singer’s
I used to spend pre-9/11 nights
listening to the crusty blues
in the old Pink & Blue, so named
for the contrasting neon lights all over,
an owner that never aged slinging
me Guinness after Guinness until
I developed gout.
The sound was raw, open and
exposed. A nerve ending twitching
on a gritty nighttime street next
to a rat infested alley, while the
sandpaper crooning of Jumpin’
Willie Cobb on the stage
rattled the pillars of heaven.
The stories were sad then, no sadder
than now, but different, an optimism
tinged with expected disappointment.
Adulthood hadn’t started in earnest,
I hadn’t met one of the loves of my
life, I didn’t know myself very well.
I was formed in the blue fires
of rough handed blues singers
as they worked their day jobs
and sang the blues at night while
I sat at the end of a curved bar
sucking down stouts wondering
where I’d be when I got to be
their age; before I really knew the blues.
Now I’m their age,
and I understand
the blues better than I ever
did then. The lighting is just
different than I expected.