Up jumped the Devil

“The blues, is a low-down achin’ heart disease
Like consumption, killing me by degrees”

– Robert Johnson –

Johnson sang that in his song Preachin’ Blues (Up Jumped The Devil). And brother I do believe he was singing about me. How a poor black man in the Mississippi delta back in 1936 could have done this? Well I suppose we both done went down to the crossroads and made our deal. And the Devil has his price you got to pay.

You know the blues when you got them. It ain’t just a cloudy day or a bit of disappointment. It’s a low feeling that creeps in on you and makes itself at home, wrapping its cold fingers around your heart. Taking whatever it pleases and laughing at you when you try to fight it off. It wins…It always wins. My blues will win. Maybe sooner rather than later. Who knows. I just know I am hanging in between living and the other thing. That’s the blues man, it don’t shake down and go away. It is a life.

Lately I have been thinking on God, the nature of man and the weapons we build when we sleep just inches away. I want to believe in God, I do man. I have seen miracles and had hope wash in on a black place. But that was long ago. God seems to have moved on. Maybe like Job he laid a 20 to 1 odds on my ass and the other fellow won. And if anyone has his price to exact it’s God…Think of the Sopranos but with stained glass windows and chants.

As for man. Well here’s the dice as they fell. You’re mostly fucked…No it’s okay. You are. That’s just it. Most of you are discouraging and frightening. I find you baffling and questionable. I like you sometimes too, that’s the scary part. Like petting a tiger. It’s soft and the sensation is wonderful, but you just never know when it’ll turn. And you know them teeth and them claws will gut you sure as shooting.

And then there’s those things, the things we do to each other. Things in the name of love, heartbreak, justice, lust and Sunday mornings. How we cut into ourselves. Ol’ van Gogh was just more literal than most. But I’ve cut out pieces of me and dropped them in butcher paper to give as an offering to someone I wanted to see me bleed. A bloody mess left in the lap of one quite incredulous. Only to find out later that the choice cuts were to be made against my will. It all sounds like burnt offerings and the smell of sex left hanging in a room, the bedding in a heap on the floor and a strange look of astonishment on our faces. Ah beauty, it’s hideous and grotesque!

So there I stand. Fucking empty. A broken vase. Really, that’s a great description. A vase serves no purpose really, except to hold something. Flowers or sins, you see. And when you break one, there’s no reason to keep it around. At least that’s how I feel. So I continue to linger, feeling like a ghost. No one sees me till I make my presence known. And them that seek me out tend to do so out of fascination or mortification. Some experience to relate later around your kin and kind. About the time he did this thing you won’t believe.

Spending my hours alone, trying to commit myself to life. To stay put, to stick to some material thing because that’s what’s expected. But constantly wanting to be free. To fly away, to know what it’s like to feel the absence of chains, grief and the burden of languages.

Someone tell me it’s going to be alright…I dare you!

Hey you…out there on your own…

Be well.

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4 responses

  1. “Like petting a tiger.”

    Aaagh, this one! THIS one, sir!

    I’m lucky I was sitting down when I read it.

    July 4, 2010 at 10:24 am

  2. Julie Jane

    Not everyone dies murdered at the age of 27 like R.Johnson. Take care that something much worse than death don’t ever come and fetch you. Agony. A space –more than a time- of void. The time out of time when you’re not hanging any more and not crashed yet. Where you lose everything. Even your ability to think and feel. Even your knowledge of loss. And not that you don’t suffer… I’m serious . I’ve seen it. My stepfather, father-in-law, and to some extent my own father died this way, the three of them within a year. But they had started to die years ago. I guess that for all of us they were already dead, and their becoming a corpse, to be honest, was a matter of form. I’m not cynical. That’s mere truth.
    My daughter’s father rang me tonight, saying he was about to get it over. We talked for hours.
    Not that I understand. I understand a little I think. I do want to understand. Now, I just see an implacable machine.
    When I said all this drove me sort of dry…
    You’re so alive. You’re clever, sensitive, passionate. For the moment. If you call death, even not really beleiving it, even like a fucking game, it’ll take you last. And before, all that you still have. Slowly but surely.
    If you’re suffering to see that lot living an empty and material life, and to do “what’s expected”, god you’re not the only one and you know it, take some fresh air, just go, you don’t measure up how free you are. And fetch some other lonelinesses, and love, and trust just a little. At least it can’t be worse. And you’ll still have something to write about.

    July 5, 2010 at 4:27 pm

  3. Dakota

    Robert Johnson is my great grand uncle 🙂

    I like what you said

    March 23, 2012 at 1:35 pm

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