Poetry 2012 / Volume 43

Robert Johnson — William Miller

It wasn’t the devil
who taught him to play
guitar, sing the blues
in a graveyard of broken
headstones, weedy grass.

It was an old black man,
a sharecropper who
owned one pair
of faded overalls,
a six-string brown box.

And he chose this place
to pick and moan
for the cool night air,
the silence no wife
or child disturbed.

Robert followed him
there one moonless
night, heard the music
from the dirt road
he often walked alone.

And he asked for
the secret, the dark magic
that bent the strings
just so, a sound sad
as working in the fields.

The old man laughed,
said he’d teach him
all he knew about
chords and picking,

his graveyard tricks.

But there was no
secret to the blues,
every black man
sang them in the cane
or a bad, all-night juke.

He didn’t know he
was a singer just a man
who suffered in his bones,
the tune the same,
the words his own.

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One thought on “Robert Johnson — William Miller

  1. Pingback: Current Issue: Volume 43, Number 1 — Poetry Issue, Fall 2012 | Coe Review

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