Medicine Show (1)

“The banjo is a well of souls.”
—Scott Didlake, gourd banjo maker

The first mate goes round
unlocking the ankles of 20 at a time,
a wet cloth tied over his face against the stench.

Now come the crackers,
now come the leather-tongued snakes.
Welts rise like anthills on calves & shoulders.

Get up! shout the pink-faced men
as they drive their rapidly declining stock up on deck.
You’ll die if you don’t start moving. Dance!

Those with chained feet make music
for those with chained hands.
And half-atrophied as they are

the muscles remember
what the human being wills itself to forget,
claw finger, hammer thumb,

the firmness of a taut-skinned earth
trembling under the organized tromp of feet.
The calabash carries

the burden the singers croak:
going, going, gone.
Legs like flames on the savanna flare & die.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

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