Banjo Origins (2): The Fifth String

This entry is part 24 of 34 in the series Breakdown: The Banjo Poems


It had been a drifter,
getting by on odd jobs:
guy wire for a weathervane,
the main spring in the crouch of a cat,
a corn broom’s binding cord.

It had learned to sing the wind’s several laments,
to play with its prey,
to teem.

It happened by
just when the banjo was holding
auditions for a new first string,
& unexpectedly
the fifth string got the part.
Its square tuning peg was a perfect fit
for that round & bottomless hole.

The banjo now began
to resemble itself,
like a forest that fills
the spaces between the trees
with more trees.

Series Navigation← Banjo ProverbsMedicine Show (4): A Spell to Ward Off Banjos →

9 Replies to “Banjo Origins (2): The Fifth String”

  1. I love the list of the banjo’s jobs, its lives. I especially like “a corn broom’s binding chord.” And I like how it begins to resemble itself, its identity rediscovered (at least that’s what I extrapolate from those lines.) I need to catch up on your blog.

    1. Thanks. I know you’ve made a pretty in-depth study of American roots music, so your good opinion here means a lot to me.

      The wire from old brooms was often re-purposed for diddley bows, so that’s where that idea came from. Also, I see the broom as a kind of non-musical first cousin to guitar and banjo.

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