Saturday, August 16, 2014

Blues 'round Midnight and Meeting Old Man Scratch

Photographer -- Matthew Polsfuss

Today Georgia poet Clifford Brooks brings us back to blues.  The first poem, "Blues 'round Midnight," was inspired by Billie Holiday and Robert Johnson, both of whom need no introduction.  The second, "Old Man Scratch (2)," responds to the blues of Barry Adamson, who began his career in the post-punk band Magazine and later joined the Buzzcocks.  Like many British rockers, Adamson went to art school for a time.  

Enjoy these soulful poems that channel both traditional and new blues.

 Blues ‘round Midnight

Robert Johnson is laced in my cigarettes.
There ain’t no other blues
the universe can throw
at me
like being blood-drunk.

The Devil knows my number.
Gums receding, mentally rickety,
there’s the memory of losing a girlfriend
to Jesus.
He can have her.
She’s married with five kids now.
When guilt comes,
I got somewhere else
to be.

Little old ladies are precious
in churches
where organ music never changes.
It’s a tender language.
It’s a prayer list.
Such a small, quiet room
where people think of the dead
and sniffle.

The stabbing sprawl
of what pain is,
is the same
as the day after vodka
sucked from a plastic bottle. 
Amore and addiction (their taste
is exactly the same):
I stitch both in a potato sack
and cast it into the Cohutta.

I reflect on all the reasons
life hasn’t let me go
when there’s doubt
this warrior’s walk won’t work out.
It’s time to give up that ghost.
The only choice is what
form of attrition I enjoy most.

For far more than a few hours
I’m sure I’ll still stay up,
fumble with ideas beyond
what my mind and fingers
can form.
I will ignore rusty pipes
as migraines mend,
an agony kept quiet by,
Don’t Explain.

Billie's "Don't Explain" is here:

 Meeting Old Man Scratch (2)

Old Man Scratch
seems sat-back-easy
on my front porch,
slouched in a chair
where my grandmother snapped
green beans
during times
men were more crossroads wise.

Predestination or not,
knew her eldest grandson
is one
who would welcome calamity
for more celebrity
than he can carry.
There’s black magic around
my enchanted
choice of occupation,
but it is the music
that keeps a fire in men.

The Saint of Pimps
appears almost blameless.
Iniquity reclines in a reverie
that seems complete and content,
like the first time
I kissed a girl.


There's a familiar shadow
between us,
in the sun they look the same.
Barely a breathable distance
in that space at any time,
it’s deliciously brutal.           
There's too much truth in
Georgia-poet voodoo
to let me forget
my momma,
and a monster,
have an equal share
of my tombstone stock.

There's a tally taken
for every untouched flower
I pick, promise forever,
then only keep a single evening.
There are spells in ink
up both arms
to squirm a few more weeks
of Sundays;
to stay in the sun
until my Wendigo wise up.

Mad-rushing memories
have immortalized motels in Athens
and romances in Rome.
This restlessness
is from knowing
there’s a hard time
to get on with.

I try not to make my folks
fuss too much.
I’ve got one’s good sense,
and the other’s talent
for thinking around it.
Morality is best left to Milton.
I’ve got a 100 dollar bill
and golden fiddle built-in
when the world, during a rave,
or Easter morning, ends
on a high note.

Digging back into the Devil,
my only two cents sneers out:
Bring on the Rapture!
I’m sure Paradise is boring,
if all the women there are pure.
I’ve got better things to do
than worry about fear, forgiveness,
and you.

Barry Adamson performs "Jazz Devil" in 2010:

I have been looking for more performances to post at The Song Is... as jazz is about performance.  Fortunately, Clifford obliged with videos of his performances.  In the picture below, you can see the Atlanta skyline.

Photographer -- Matthew Polsfuss

Here Clifford is reading at Rome, GA's Second Service @ The Vault:

His recording of Charles Bukowski's "Poetry Readings" is also at the Bukowski Library:

Clifford truly has a gorgeous voice!

Rapper and poet Ezra Letra has drawn on Clifford's talents in "Tears from the Same Cloud."  Please support them by purchasing this download:

Photo of Ezra Letra by Letra himself

Clifford has also collaborated with poet-editor-writer-lawyer-and-former-hip-hop-artist Jamez Chang on "Whirling Metaphysics."  The painting in the video is by Ka-Son Reeves.

"Whirling Metaphysics" reminds me of what I like about hip-hop, the blend of words and music and poetry.  And Jamez has a great voice.  (I would hit the exclamation point, but Callie, the other cat, is sleeping on that particular key.  She has been mesmerized by all the videos I've been playing.  Thelma, on the other hand, is keeping my husband company while he reads in the other room.)

Photographer -- The Wispy Gypsy

Here is Clifford's bio:

Clifford Brooks, a native of Athens, Georgia, grew up running wild among trees and open air all over his home state. A Huck Finn in his early years, by far not a fan of public school (or being indoors for that matter), he began to write as an escape.  His passion for letters grew over time into short stories and humorous non-fiction he became known for in smaller literary circles.

It wasn’t until 2003 that he took up poetry as his sole muse.  A few years later, with the help of an agent, editor(s), and publisher, The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics became a means of introduction to a much wider audience of readers.

Before turning teaching and creative writing into a means of financial survival, Clifford worked as a bookseller, landscaper, juvenile probation officer, and social worker.  In 1999 he received a Bachelors of Science in History/Political Science from Shorter College in Rome, Georgia.

Today his book, The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics, has been nominated for 2 Pushcarts, a Pulitzer in Poetry, and Georgia Author of the Year.  With the attention his literary career has garnered, he has since started The Southern Collective Experience and invited into The Last Ancients.  Both of these groups have given Clifford new energy and inspiration to complete his next book, Athena Departs.

He hopes that you will visit his website for more:

The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics is also available at Barnes & Noble online and Amazon:

In Amelia Clegg's photograph below, the men are, from left to right, Randy Brown, Jr.; Andy Whitehorne; Jamez Chang; and Clifford himself.  All are members of the Southern Collective Experience:

Photographer -- Amelia Clegg
Now to post this entry before I wake Callie.

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