Bessie Smith still died here in Clarksdale,
Regardless if the white doctor helped or not.
But the story of a bastard, spiteful white man fits the blues,
And so lives here at the junction of Highways 61 and 49;
Just like Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil to play the guitar,
The instrument Satan stole from heaven when he was cast out.
But it's all a lie.
It was Tommy Johnson, another blues singer, who bragged about selling his soul.
Robert Johnson stole that story,
Like he stole his tunes about snakes, and other men's women,
And so deserved the poisoned whisky that he drank.
And Son House said he probably stole that too,
And that Johnson's soul wasn't worth more than a proper tuning.
But what does it matter how these stories got here?
Only the blues matter, for in the end,
The truth is pain.
So these shrines of sorts are built.
The Ground Zero, recreated like a 1930's bucket of blood juke joint,
So that white tourists can get goose flesh
Drinking whiskey from clean glasses,
Wishing they had brought their Swiss Army knives along
To carve their names into the bar;
And next door at the Delta Blues Museum,
Where the same tourists can stand in Muddy Waters' shot-gun shack
And forget that they too would
Have abandoned Bessie Smith if the chance had been theirs;
That they wouldn't have made such a profitable deal with the devil.
For a moment they feel at one with the sharecroppers of the Blues,
Whose dreams were bent on a guitar string;
Whose love was sucked out through a harp as if it was snake venom through a bite.
They step inside that life for awhile
And confiscate their reasons for being so sad.
After all, pain is truth.
After dividing the last four years between his native Pennsylvania and Florida, Ron Yazinski and his wife Jeanne have recently become permanent residents of Winter Garden. A retired high school English teacher, Ron is inspired by the personalities and energies of his new hometown. Initially enticed by the climate of central Florida, he finds the hospitality and openness of the people who live in this marvelous little town, refreshing and rejuvenating. Ron's poems have appeared in many journals, including Strong Verse, The Edison Literary Review, Chantarelle's Notebook, Centrifugal Eye, and Pulsar. His is also the author of the chapbook Houses: An American Zodiac, and two volumes of poetry, South of Scranton and Karamazov Poems.
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