Banjo Origins (1): The American Instrument

This entry is part 20 of 34 in the series Breakdown: The Banjo Poems


One scant & skinny time
alone with the astrolabe,
Columbus had a vision of stomachs
blown up thump-hard
& strung with horsehair,
& when he came to,
his mouth was full of the taste
of bitter almonds. All day
his shadow crept around him
on the deck, seeping into
every godforsaken cranny as
he plotted his next voyage:
ascending the world’s nipple by ship.
Surely the Caribs hadn’t
gotten there yet & spoiled it
with their deplorable dietary preferences.
But he saw again
those stark ribs—
frets on a lute, rungs to the crow’s nest–
& below, that pot
in which by the cheerful sound of it
something was bubbling,
something irreplaceable
was being melted down.

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4 Replies to “Banjo Origins (1): The American Instrument”

    1. Really? Well, you might be happy to know another “banjo origins” poem is in the offing, even though this one was not one of my favorite poems. Thanks for liking it.

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