Mastering the Guitar
The mysteries of tablature yield
shape by shape. The strings sing their metal
sentences. None of this is enough.
In Clarksdale once, an man
sold his soul for mastery,
to be King of the Blues.
He found a totem place, crossroads.
Take the bone from a cat, black
as a shellacked guitar, black
as the skin of Robert Johnson himself,
the devil’s slave now. Unwrap your guitar.
Start to play the only way you can.
Keep pickin’. Sense another’s breathing.
Hear the pluck of unseen hands,
press your fingers without cease,
frets stain with blood
blue as the Blues in the ghostly dark.
Let the whites of your eyes show
white as bone, in full moon light,
playing your immortal soul away.
You’re branded now, master.
You can play any tune, embellish
and syncopate like the devil himself.
Go home in morning silence
and astonish your friends. It will be enough.
Any tune you like, remember.
Travellers to Clarksdale, where
Highway 61 and Highway 49
cross one another in the night,
find only a bricked-up Laundromat.
Squatters’ rights, on Johnson’s corner,
lye soap to wash away the blues.
Too many poor folk here, the devil’s