RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – July 18

Poem of the Week 7/18/2017

Arthur Russell


I love my guitar, but I haven’t learned
to improvise.
However you conceive
of boundaries on the other side
of which something like my facility in speech
would begin to emerge in music, on guitar,
I’m just a trained monkey.

I can muck around with volume, rhythm,
syncopate a song, but when it’s my turn
to take a solo after a chorus,
the scales that match the chord elude
me, or I need to start at the tonic
or I’ve lost the beat, which is so not me,
or I simply have nothing to say.

I stopped writing this poem
the last two days to take out my guitar. I can’t believe
I would need to write a
about a problem that clogs my music.
That’s like complaining to your mom about a bully.

I took out Jobim’s Corcovado for which I have a nice arrangement.

This doesn’t sound like poetry, does it?

I figured out the keys
it moves through, worked the scales in those keys up
and down the fret board,
and found snatches of melody to dip
into when I got to those bars.

God, this is killing me; it’s so embarrassing.
My music-literate friends
would read this and say: “What an idiot!”

After two days, I had nothing but
the arrangement I’d worked out six years ago.
Then I went back to this poem.

I hate
the way it feels to hate a thing I love
because it won’t give me the thing I want from it
the most.

That last stanza
gave me no trouble.

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