Tag Archives: list poem


MORE BLUES POETRY. this is an earlier, unedited version.

How the Blues Die

Bessie Smith flew from her car like an angel
and broke open at the ribs and wrists, died
neglected on the white hospital stretcher.

Blind Lemon Jefferson froze to death on the streets
of Chicago, lost in the snow—a thing
he feared in the blank of his eternal whiteout.

Memphis Minnie stroked out, so they shoved
her into a nursing home til her expiration date,
aphasic save for the livid spittle laced to her lip.

Charley Patton became a sizzling collapse
of the heart’s infarction—an entropy of passion
as plaque bloomed like a lily in his ventricles.

Peg Leg Howell burned, corroded by the syrupy
sweet of diabetes that claimed his legs first—
bad sugar crystallizing slow along his thighs, crippling.

Pine Top Smith caught a stray bullet to the chest when
his boogie-woogie spun out of control—he lurched forward
over the bloodied ivories skewed by reckless shots.

Leadbelly escaped every prison except the one
as big as his body: the iron maiden of Lou Gherig’s
shackled his limbs from within and snuffed him out.

Robert Johnson played too far out of hand in Greenwood—
gutted by the barman’s jealous slip of arsenic over his
fifth whiskey, a milky swill of revenge in amber depths.

Big Bill Broonzy felt the cancer coagulate in his throat,
cutting off his vocal flow as he punched riffs into his guitar
and onto the pale, sunwashed porch after morning chemo.

Leroy Carr drowned in the depressive cloy of canned heat—
the crush of drinking to death, while Willie Johnson
suffocated on the icy ash of his burned-out home. Pneumonia

lying heavy in his chest, he hummed “Dark was the Night,
Cold was the Ground” to forgotten streets, careful to still
the chalk-grind of his bones as he sighed off mid-moan.


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Filed under for class, New Writing, Poetry, Unedited

this was a play with language

OK, so the next prompt for class was a list poem, and I really had to rack my brain for a good place full of stuff to rattle off. As we’re in the full swing of autumn, I’ve been frequenting the Farmer’s Market quite a bit. So much is always going on there I had no problem spinning a monster list of the action without going into too much depth about its significance. Instead, I had a lot of fun with the words themselves. Hope ya like. And get out to some kind of market this fall, before they’re all gone.

The Market

The Market

Flagship galleons of tent-poles and beams
sail on October breezes in happy exhalations
of dried chilies and garlic roots on frayed twine,
chai tea and roasted coffee beans, musty sourdough,
barbeque fresh from the grill, and heavy heaps
of zinnia breath and humming mums. The cacophony

of cardboard-and-marker sale-signs boast their wares:
okra and heirloom tomatoes bursting from summer-song
vines, raging red apples and bruised-knee beets,
waving green hands of arugula, cabbage and kale,
kohlrabi and paw-paw fronds, dusty gems of pear,
persimmon, potato, pumpkin and squash, sassafras roots
and sweet corn cobs, peeling-newspaper onion bulbs
and golden vats of heat-spun honey—all hoisted
into awed palms scuffed with Indiana clay, their bodies
heavy and solid in each pound by bountiful pound. And then

the riffing ribbons of banjo, bass and mandolin
bouncing the beat of stepping dancer-soles on
pine platforms that bump rhythms with each
board-bending stomp, turning and tapping,
thumping, strumming. With them dance the parade
of pound-hounds pacing and prancing on burgundy
brick bike-paths: great dane, mastiff, chihuahua,
mutt, mutt, mutt—all trailing Technicolor streams
of leashes and leads their owners tow taut against
wild paws and drooling jowls, canine eyes darting
everywhere, warping and whirling with the aimless
dawdlers, diving buyers and curious passers-by.

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Filed under for class, New Writing, Poetry