My Lick–Danny Earl Simmons

for harmonica


You suck on 4

and bend it like a hickory switch

until just before your chewing gum

loses all its flavor.


Now slide down to 3

for a draw and a blow,

but make it quick –

if you take time for a lap dance,

you’re taking too long,

you have to get to 2 to breathe

life into a wicked little blue note

who lives way out in the back woods

where they still have stills and steady customers.


Bounce back up to 4,

draw the bowstring again

and take careful aim

before sending it away by tugging

on 5 and filling the air

with the sound of hopeless mothers

whose sons play all kinds of blues

in all kinds of bars.


Finish it off with a 5 blow

that lingers as you glide

back to 4 and then pull.

That last combination, the 5 draw/blow

that slips like a December drunk

into a 4 blow/draw

is so damned fundamental

you just got to wallow

in all that sad over and over again.


Now, step back, slide your harp

into your front shirt pocket like it thinks

it lives there, look over at Froggy, a man

who knows how to tongue a thing or two,

and hope to see that sneaky grin inside

his salt-and-pepper beard, the one that lets you know

he’s been up to something in the back of his mind

where memories live.


Look for his eyes smiling behind

his coke bottle glasses and say,

“That’s my lick, but you can use it.”

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