The Blue Etheridge
Dear Parole Board of the Perennial Now,
let me begin by saying it’s very likely
none of my ex-wives will vouch for me.
Let’s just say the parable
of the Negro who uses his dick for a cane
and the parable of the Negro who uses his cane
for a dick convey the same message to me.
I’m sorry. You mean before that?
Well, it’s as if some ghost the height
of my granddaddy was lighting a cigarette
the wrong way to symbolize my muddy path
through life. You ever seen the Mississippi?
You’ll learn all you need to know
if you look at the wall of my kinfolk’s pictures.
Belzora Knight Taylor. BuShie.
Janice. Eunice. Clyneese. Me
and my brothers fishing in high waters.
Whenever I see brown hills and red gullies,
I remember what the world was like
before I twisted spoons over flames.
I pissed from a bridge the day I left.
Yes Sir, I’ve changed, I’ve changed.
But I won’t be telling you the story
of the forlorn Negro or the Negro cutthroat
or the Negro Hero or the Negro Tom.
I won’t be telling you the story of the night
I died. I believe everything comes back
to music or money. Belly Song.
Song of the twelve fingered fix.
Song of The Gemini Women. I know I’m cursed.
I sang out to the Baptists I saw gathered
on the riverbank the day I left. I sang out
to the reeds straight as tongues and the salmon
in the waters of my people, and beyond that
to my barrel-backed shadow damming the stream.
“The Blue Etheridge” is from Wind in a Box (Penguin, 2006)