Standin’ at the crossroads, I b’lieve I’m sinkin’ down.—Robert Johnson
Somewhere down a Delta road, a cross
Stark and white against the greenleaf, raised
By some fervent Baptist, otherwise at loss
To understand why some souls are saved
And others lost. Robert Johnson, tale is told,
Met the devil at the crossroads south of Rosedale
And the devil wrapped his hand ‘round Robert’s soul
And squeezed ‘til every song was a blues-y wail.
The one chord digs the hole where the soul should be;
The four’s the soul’s last struggle, though in vain.
The five’s the height from which the soul can see
The one again, like a long black train
Arriving at the graveyard. Could we choose,
We all would sell our souls to sing the blues.
Driving through the Mississippi Delta not long ago, I saw a sight. Made me think about the blues. This sonnet has been knocking on the inside door of my brain ever since, trying to get out.