by Michelle Lyle
The captain of words and riverboats
knew the mighty, muddy slash of the Mississippi
deserved more than just quaint ponderings.
He knew she was a strange lover lying
next to beggars and big cats
in the silt lined cradle of the Delta.
Down the Great River Road
came dark men with dark stories.
One man longed to play his hurt so well,
he sold his soul to the Devil at the corner of 61 & 49.
Mr. Johnson and his guitar kept heading east,
past flat and dusty White and black towns
getting sleepy under their Cotton blankets
as the sun set on memories of what used to be.
The railroad tracks told the Blues Man where he belonged-
on the far side of the Plantation’s wide cast shadow.
On down to where the boll meets the shack meets the river,
where old news covered the walls
and bad news covered the people like horsehair blankets.
A place where he could shake the devil loose for a while,
where his kith and kin would sweep sin from the stoop
with quiet determination and knowing glances,
so the Angels could come down and kiss their boy’s hands as he slept.