Cold was the Ground

A moan dragged across
gravel, a guitar’s metallic
complaint & shimmy—

these sounds rattle the zodiac,
wail to the mute eruption

& flare of a collapsing star. Dark
was the Night,
Cold was the Ground

by Blind Willie Johnson—
3 minutes & 15 seconds

of bruised spiritual—
is touring the cosmos
alongside The Brandenburg

Concerto & Johnny
B. Goode
on the spacecraft

Voyager, the music flanked
by a slew of natural sounds:
surf & thunder, crickets,

a kiss, a heartbeat—
an aural primer

to planet Earth. The world
is phonic. What’s matter—
blueberry, backhoe, the back

of your hand—but the shards
of that primeval sound

when the universe
detonated from the ghost
of a pebble?

On this journey,
any one man’s history

is dwarfed
by boundless gulf
& pulsar—Voyager,

long past Pluto,
is 100,000 years

from the next system—
but here you are
on Earth & so it matters

that when Johnson was 7,
his stepmother, aiming

for his father, cast lye
into his face, the price
for his father’s infidelity.

Blinded, he was resigned
to a street corner: the dull

rattle of tips pooling
in a cup, a woman passing
to another running catalogue

of bouquets—husk of sweat, at first,
then salt, then almonds—

her body’s continuous assertions
grown hyperbolic. He could
smell moods—their delicate

swerves evident as each
nuance of skin’s pit & swell—

smell the fur
before it brushed his arm,
before the woman backed away

in a clatter of heels.
Years later, he could smell

the stench of soaked char
in the ruined pit
of his house. Turned away

from the hospital after the fire
that gutted his roof,

he returned to a rain-soaked
bed of newspaper & soot,
& pneumonia killed him

in the ashes,
beneath a ceiling

not of wood or plaster
but of stars.
What are blues

with no human to hear?
What’s a kiss

or a heartbeat
to that grand sweep
of interplanetary ash

but molecules bumping
molecules? Stranger, unimaginable

intergalactic pilgrim
who’s never even heard
of a tongue,

if you’ve found this note
curled in our million dollar can,

hear the absurdity of our glory
& our pain. Transmute it
into we know not what:

space dust, star kindling.
Restore us back to sound.

–From Bone Music



One Response to Cold was the Ground

  1. Tricia LaGrace says:

    From hyperbole to the 4th Dimension it is pain that transmutes my soul to maturation where the stars live & the blues can be translated. Thanks Stephen! What a fine specimen of Man you have become.

    Peace & Love,

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