Lynne Thompson

Highway 61 Blues

you begin with a sound wrapped around a syllable – Quincy Troupe
Woncha take me Bobby J? Woncha take me
up the trail outta New Orleans, past Natchez,
past Vicksburg, all the way to Rollin’ Fork?
You and me gonna beat the boll weevil,
gonna beat the bent back heat all the way
to Duncan, all the way to New Africa been
on my mind. I’m looking for a blue devil,
a blue devil to set me free from floodplains,
from Yazoo, from Tallahatchie, fly free me
all the way to Greenville, Tutwiler, all the way
to Clarksdale where my guitar just gotta moan
Preachin’ Blue all the way, all the way, all the way
and I’m hollerin’ loud I been `buked and scorned
Willie Brown; I been beat down Howlin’ Wolf;
hey Kid Bailey, got any scratch? Can you get me
to Shelby where blues ain’t dead?
So said some
pretty one-eyed gal who gave me two six stringers
and a hard drum, said pace yourself, pace yourself
and yeah, Mr. Jimmie Cotton soothe me sure with
some sweet, sweet devil music to keep me movin’
outta sullen heat and deep blue and
Jim Crow and sharecrop—no mo’ dry throat,
no mo’ hot whip, no mammy sold to don’t know
where, no white man’s cotton but no forty acres
and no goddamned mule, yeah, so take me Bobby J,
all the way to Memphis, out west to Houston,
up east to Cincinnati, up north to Chi-town, away
from the woncha please Stop Breakin’ Down Blues.

Lynne Thompson
“Highway 61 Blues” is from Beg No Pardon (Perugia Press, 2007).