As much as I love hip hop, and soul,
and classical, and nuevo tango,
there’s a part of me that will only moan
for bluegrass. The black power side of me
says this is fucked up. The dancer in me
says this is nothing my hips can dig with.
The blister of me says it’s the first and only reason
to wake up. Blame it on the fiddler, with fingers every bit
as adept as Ihtzak Perlman’s and nails thrice as dirty.
Blame it on the sweat of an apple neck that only took
a break to throb in time with the stomp,
those feet that forget the ache for an hour of a collision of
their own making. This is a white ass bar, and I’m a sore thumb
covered in soot, ’cause I too had a long weary day, and
I too am ready to close my eyes and throw down.
This ain’t a music drizzled from the gods,
this is the aftertaste of the buried body. And all poetry aside,
this is how I’m asking you to love me. As if our bones
are sprouting an unmowed lawn. This is the magic
of the white ass bar with the old black dude in the corner
too drunk to remember he never got his mule.
This bluegrass trio is a sociological problem:
the bassist is the kind of heavyset, white-bearded
fella I too easily imagine offering candy to an eighth-grader;
the lead singer is the kind of proper forty-something
aunt whose eyes would ask the niece I’m dating
if she’s lost her mind; the fiddler is the crazy uncle
that likely just slithered out of jail with a Strom Thurmond
tattoo on the left cheek of his behind.
And here they are, all four hundred years of them,
playing that song like they knew it was the realest taste
of reparation I was ever gonna get. I tell you this to say
that despite every indication that we could never work,
I’ve already discovered a taste for dissonant liquor,
and there are times when familiarity must give way to
the thrill of what the hell was that? ‘Cause let’s face it,
this bar smells disgusting, and when the music stops
they’ll probably never know my name, and my black power
side asks why this is okay.
In third grade, at least three times I dreamt of Harriet Tubman
trying to kill me. She carried an ax, and her eyes seemed to curse
me for leaving her work undone. Were she to return,
before the blade split me, I would point her to you,
body swaying to a music that was once the background
to a burning cross, and I’d whisper that when you
eventually break my heart, I will split in three part harmony,
my lips upturned with the snapping of the fiddler’s strings.
I will tell her, this is how it needed to be.
This is still my country, even as it bleeds me.
This dirt road is greener than our ghosts will believe.
Our bloody grass is faithful, and always thirsty.