Tuesday, June 9, 2009


If the Delta Was the Sea

es! Thank God; human feeling is like the mighty rivers that bless the earth; it does not wait for beauty—it flows with resistless force, and brings beauty with it.
      —George Eliot, Adam Bede

"if the river was whiskey" Big T sings
one night at Red's juke joint "and I was a
diving duck" a good old favorite from
both black and white country traditions "I'd
dive to the bottom and never come up"
I'm standing next to T playing the sax
and—blues being my meditative state—
I think to myself: extraordinary

metaphor! to be conditional and
transformative at the same time and as
usual when at Red's I also feel
immersed in Clarksdale so my mind shifts and
spins the image till it comes to rest on
the mysteries around me: if the river
was Clarksdale what would I be? (stranger from
such a different place poking around

outsider trying to peer inside) would I
be Twain on the Mississippi godlike
pilot sure hand every rock and shoal
clear in his mind? or Rimbaud's drunken boat
floating unguided toward those phantasmic
ocean visions? and knowing that each choice
bears its own gifts and dangers should I dive
or sink or drift? and if the river was

Clarksdale the Delta would be the sea (as indeed
it once was) vast and in many stories primal
"darkness upon the face of the deep" while the
earth is still "without form" and if the Delta
was the sea then Clarksdale every town roads
houses forests fields even Red's all would
be mingled with it as waters of the
Mississippi flow to the Gulf and we

looking out over the Delta Sea from
our narrow lives would think it endless
and always changeable: in the era
when cotton is king it's a gleaming sea
white in the sun or sometimes we look beneath:
layers waves of black and brown topsoil rich
deepest in the world we're told calm and smooth
or on some days the surface rough with old

Indian mounds or anonymous clumps
of earth where slaves are buried and other
days maybe close to twilight the Delta
Sea is golden trick of the light or a
reflection of great wealth and in the depths
beyond our vision the registry of
bones: the dead those newly wept for and down
ever deeper thousands of years back to

the Bronze Age —famously democratic
this undersea city of bones unhinged
from age race history cause of death and
by now the "sea-change into something rich and
strange" has as promised transfigured them all
to coral and pearl and as my meditations
come to rest back where I started at Red's
listening to T—if the river was

Clarksdale and the Delta was the sea then
tonight it would all be intense blue deep
blue Delta Sea eternal the purest though
darkest blue of blues I might never come up
- Dick Lourie

via poets.org

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