Good Morning Blues

As the months wore on
it began to fade, the once-
sharp contrast between
our skins & hair & lips,
as we knew it would.
Our rubbing together
built up less & less
of a static charge.
The pale apple on the back
of her laptop no longer
reminded me of anything
in particular, & we traded
fewer glances over
the rims of our cups.
For me, the morning paper
became a cosy crib
to wake up in, gazing
through bars of ink
at something like a moon-
lit yard — colorless,
fuzzy with possibilities —
as it slowly shrank
into the hard day.


I stole the title but not much else from the traditional song. I’m most familiar with Leadbelly’s version, which begins with a spoken line: “Never was a white man had the blues, ’cause, nothing to worry about.” Street musician Arvella Gray performs a more light-hearted “Good Morning Blues” at Chicago’s Maxwell Street Market in this video.

11 Replies to “Good Morning Blues”

  1. I think anyone hungry for something can sing the blues. I like the laptops in the morning, and fewer glances over the rims of their cups. The morning paper is like a return to the primitive. A kind of lust for ink on the fingers and a tangibility that glowing screens can not provide.

  2. Pale blues like this, a fading or fatigue of passion, can sometimes be harder than something felt more strongly, sort of like an elusive thing you can’t pinion, can’t even get your hands into.

  3. Then there’s Martin Mull’s blues song about coming home and finding both the Mercedes and Cadillac gone (“I got so upset, I threw my martini across the lawn”).

    Nice poem. I like the apple on the laptop.

  4. Thanks for the comments. I’m glad y’all liked the apple on the laptop image – I was hoping that would work. As for Leadbelly’s quote, it’s quite unusual for something like that to have made it onto record back in the 1940s, but I assume it came out of his association with communists and other leftists in the Greenwich Village folk music scene. Josh White, too, was urged to make the blues “socially relevant,” I think. That’s not to say Leadbelly didn’t actually feel that way, of course.

    I think the term blues in fact originated with whites. Not only that, white musicians performed blues songs and blues ballads (Muleskinner Blues, John Henry, etc.) almost from the beginning. But there was this whole, huge and grotesque history of minstrel shows – the theft of black songs and impersonation of black musicians – lurking in the background. Much of the evolution of 20th-century popular music in America seems to have been driven by the desire of black musicans and performers to stay one step ahead of their white imitators.

  5. I could see a music video of this. You and the woman sitting at a small table in the kitchen. The hazy morning light. And Leadbelly leaning against the counter playing his guitar……Then at the end R. Crumb runs in and asks if anyone has seen his deck of cards….

    I liked the liesurely pace at which this poem unfolded.

  6. Looking/listening to those James Booker videos and thinking of your question “Why didn’t the ‘Big Chief’ become a superstar” it seemed to me that New Orleans was so distinct from mainstream media culture that it is hard to imagine a competion between the two. Booker appearing onstage at Montreax seems a shelled trove freshly uncracked with all the fragrance of New Orleans steaming into the European air. As well Booker’s instrumentals seem to connect to an earlier century of elaborate trills, when the piano was the voice of home and community, and had not yet lost it’s place of prominace to the wail of the electric guitar. In those videos from the ’70s he seems deeply rooted in the past and undisturbed by his times, even wearing the tradional piano-man’s vest.

  7. I like the lines:
    “Our rubbing together
    built up less & less
    of a static charge.”

    I says so much without saying much at all.

  8. Fred – See, that’s the problem with videos. Like Johnny Cash in “Delia,” I would probably have to appear as myself impersonating a very different person. And people might get the wrong idea. Or worse yet, the right idea.

    Now if we could get R. Crumb to do an animation for it, that would be cool.

    Bill – What about Fats Domino? He seemed like a pretty pure New Orleans product, but he made it big. Luck of the draw, I suspect.

    Gina – Thanks for the comment(s), and welcome! I’m glad you found the minimalism of those lines effective — I worked half the day with a whittling knife, as you can probably imagine.

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