Becoming Banjo

This entry is part 31 of 34 in the series Breakdown: The Banjo Poems


I could’ve been
many things—doctor,
lawyer, beggarman, CEO—
but not a banjo. They stopped
taking applications
the moment I was born.
Though a few months earlier,
a big-headed embryo in
the womb, I might’ve had
at least a fat chance.
What a headline that
would’ve made for
the Weekly World News!
Woman Gives Birth to Banjo.
My life might’ve become
a Stuart Little-like quest,
riding the rails north
toward the great bear,
the cosmic gourd.
Ah, the tailored furs
I’d have worn, the round
houses I’d have inhabited,
built from snow!
The moon & sun would’ve
circled in the sky,
unwilling to set. The land
would’ve glistened like
a shaman’s hide drum
for conversing with the dead.
And the dead like all emigrants
would’ve babbled incoherently
from the other side,
unable to send back
the right medicine
for our breakdowns, & we
still unready to abandon
our mother tongues.

Series Navigation← Where Bluegrass Comes FromThe Fretless Banjo →
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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).


  1. It’s quite a journey from that first line to the last of this one. Takes some really surprising turns. There’s something banjo-like in that.


    1. Thanks for the comment. This is intended to be the final poem of the collection, so it’s pulling in some themes from its predecessors. Might be worth mentioning that it started life as a prose poem, so I was in kind of a surrealist mind-set. I’m not quite sure about it yet. But having culled four poems and spruced up the others, I’m liking the collection as a whole.


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