I am sitting in a Portland café,
drinking beer and chewing
on history, surrounded by musicians
of varying abilities and obvious ambitions.
We are quintessential musical men,
with all the attendant insecurities and illusions
that what we do matters. That what we create speaks
to others. That it is enough in this world to be
simply a voice, a human inkwell
spilling the dross of molten desire onto
mournful melodies that echo
from the dark places
behind human faces.
I sit at a table with three
empty chairs, my empty plate.
I am the only one with
dark skin and out of control afro.
I am apparently also the only
one who has come without
guitar or girlfriend. And I can’t prove it,
but I suspect I am not the only
one with a boulder of disappointed indecision
balanced precariously upon
world-weary shoulders. Either way,
I am alone.
A man with a beard like Father Time is playing
timeless tunes on a hungry harmonica.
A hungry harmonica?
Yes, I tell you, it is hungry!
Have you ever listened to the blues so hard
that your soul flickers with each inhale and exhale,
breath stretched on the rack of minor
pentatonic pain? The blues are all flat-fifths and appetite,
feeding on the steady rhythm
of unsightly sorrow, and
they are insatiable.
As I listen to the man play, I suddenly understand
why I have not written a song in
five years. Once lyrics have lamented love
lost and confessed confusion, what is left
to share but latent hope and
And I am afraid, so afraid, that no one will care.
What will become of me then?
What will become of me now,
surrounded by love that has found me
in a town I have come to
call home? A town
I am leaving.
I am eating the blues in this café, filling my belly
with cold beer and hot regret, willing
myself to forget that I am sitting