Download document


Blues for Bonnie

Boston is withered and faded

from blustering winds, awful weather,

and a late night's bad luck.

In the cafe

an old black man

plays his guitar and sings

With barely an audience:

seven couples only

cheating and loving in the dark

billowing gray clouds of cigarette smoke,

like sputtering camp fires.

He sings.

His voice is deep.

He marries song and words

to give birth to a hundred meanings.

Georgia, far away Georgia.

Where stand negro shacks

with leaky roofs.

Earth worms and malnutrition.

Far away Georgia he calls it in his song.

People stop talking.

There is no sound

save that of the wind shaking window panes.


With his eyes clamped shut

the man hails silence

And silence replies

with a swift blow

to his gut.

In his perplexity

he acts the gorilla.

An old and stooped gorilla


his fierce fingers on the guitar


as he scratches the itch in his soul


No new customers arrive

The air outside is bitter

The wind blusters even more

And in the hotel

a cold bed waits.

The face of the cafe's proprietor sours

from the loss of an entire night

The black man looks upward

straining the cords in his neck

His eyes are dry and red

As he stares at heaven

And heaven

throws down a net

to snare his body within.

Like a black fish

he struggles in the net

Thrashing about

in vain

With anger


and futility.

The wind beats across Boston Commons

Whistles in the church towers

and tears the night to shreds

The black man stamps his foot

as he sings his oaths and curses

His white teeth shine

in a tight grin of revenge

His face is dirty, wet and old

like a moss-covered stone.

Time, like a flood

overwhelms his weary soul

And in the middle of it all

he feels in his leg

a tremendous jerk.


and near incredulous

he feels

the rheumatic cramp

rip through his limb.

In the performance tradition

he refrains from surprise,

and slowly stops

slowly rests on his stool

a cracked vase on a stand

in a secondhand store.

And only after drawing a deep breath

he begins to sing once more.


Far away Georgia he calls it in his song

His wife's still there

Devoted but suffering

Black kids play in the ditches

not at home in school

The old ones are drunks and braggarts

and ever and forever in debt.

On Sunday mornings they go to church

specially for negroes

where they sing

spellbound by the hope of the coming

and their absence of power on earth.


mud sticks to shoes

windowless shacks

Suffering and the world,

one as old as the other.

And heaven and hell

time-worn, too.

But Georgia?

Dear God,

Even after running so far,

Georgia is still on his heels.