Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Carl Rakosi

Americana 4

The whole town used to gather around
the four bands in the four saloons on the corner.

Okey Poke used to tend bar behind a diamond 
 sunflower stickpin
and the gambler Ed Mochez, who left a hundred and ten 
when he died,
          played every hand of poker like a tiger.

People in and out day and night,
all raising simultaneous barrelhouse cain.

Where is Willie the Pleaser?
   Always women running after him,
that sweetback man kind of strutting with it
in a very mosey walk from down the river
   called Shooting the Agate.

One day a boy picked up a flute and started right in
 playing it.
Showed everybody what is a flute!

Walked over to a saxophone
and damn if he didn't start making the thing just talk!

"Go, my son, and riff it through the land,"
                                                              and he went

through manhood in his comic little hat.
He'd walk out on the stage and say, "I'd like to
 introduce my band,"
and introduced the musicians to each other.

Then he'd step back, tilt his horn
and blow a high note of emanicipation.
Then the reeds would liquefy and move out,
far out on a mellow riff,
   and his trombones
peppered dirty notes to make it real,
and church rocked!
   Not a chick in town
was safe until the blues cut him down.

The origin of the blues?
   Always been.
Some poor hustling woman feeding her fancy Dan
   in the servants' room.
Some poor guy playing a mysterious bass
fatherless figure on his trombone,
sometimes braying on it like a jack
being the porter in the barber shop.

Some underground Jupiter grieving:
Lord, your servant Juba lives in hog slop.
Give this offchild your medicinal herbs,
root of the master weed, Peter's roots,
and May apple and sweet William.

The origin of the blues?
   The white hero!


Americana 5

As it gets on in years
the third generation
feeling lonely with its children
goes into its darkroom
and develops a picture
of cattle lumbering in from the timbered pasture
at the end of a summer's day a century ago
their bags heavy with milk

planting the acre north
of the hoghouse to sweet corn
for late eating with fresh country butter

families visiting from a hundred miles
singing under a shade tree.

Where the road forks at the red barn
and the oak tree has a knot hole
on its north side
the old ones feel at home,
hoeing weeds in a little garden
and marveling how things grow
the corn having jumped a foot
over the Fourth of July weekend.

Here four-square on historic legs
on all sides bounded
by (how is this capitalized?)
God and hard work
stands the Nineteenth Century.

--Carl Rakosi, 
fr. Amulet, 1967


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