Wednesday, August 12, 2009

there's a yellow rose of texas (11)

there's a yellow rose of texas

i know the damn song, jeff! just vamp behind me,
in "c." we gotta do something or the shit's gonna
get ugly in here!
the tone "c", the mars vibration. mars, the traditional
ruler of aries & scorpio, mars, the bloodthirsty god of
war, plunder & rapine; of mayhem & destruction.

he was there, that night, seated among his devotees, his
lips & beard, like theirs, stained the color of budweiser
with traces of gray froth. his eyes, like theirs,

were hard points of red light, glowing from beneath
their cowboy hats as they sat at that table pushed against
the wall; glowing from a blackhole of bogus racial

memory – a recent one starring all of them pouring two
quarts of whiskey down the throat of an indian just to watch
him dance & die & damned if they were looking for that

same kind of fun tonight.
there's a yellow rose of texas,
i' m going there to see..."
that's right, jeff, spread that "c" chord, stretch it out taut
under me, until i hit. the only place i'm going with this
sucker is down – down slow.

i wonder if those cowboys heard how flawlessly smooth i
passed through that five note cluster on texas. did they mark
my chromatic descant or note the evenness of my vibrato?

bobby bland couldn't do better – & i was scared. a
terrible vision of my future flashed before my eyes when
that venomously godlike voice boomed from the back;

silenced the room & said,

"enough of them gawddam coon songs, boy!
sing an american song, like 'the yellar rose of texas!' "
my dashiki covered the expanding circle of moisture

spreading from my crotch; trickling down my leg,
leaving tracks of unabashed trepidation…
no other fellow knows her; nobody else but me...
i wondered if roses bloomed in whitehorse, montana
when it was 20° below in midwinter. the whole town
a whited sepulcher amid ten foot snowdrifts

looming like freelance tombstones.

what better place for a hippy college band with its big black
afro-coiffed soul singer to disappear... the "request" was flung
like a gauntlet; like a test no one could pass.

i wondered what went through poor emmett till's mind
the night when the spirits came for him. did they play with
him first? did they hoop & holler when the swirling waters

of the tallahatchie river sucked him down?

no where to run to, baby, no where to hide. nothing to do but
dig deep & sing my black ass off. there'd be no montana
reprise of the ode to billy joe if i could help it –

not that night, not ever!
u can talk of all yr dearest maids
& sing of rosalee...
the place was quiet as death as i drew out the end of my intro.
jeff laid down some slow, jazzy changes to paint that pause
with expectancy. & then i leaped into the breach & landed

bareback on sam bufolini's philly italian boogiewoogie bass
line. mike, the psychedelic drummer, shook his head like
ringo starr & held a steady four. pete arthur, our clean-cut all

american boy, found a twelve-eight guitar riff to draw out
jeff cox's acid virtuosity. & i, stretching, made up the words
as i went along, rocking like john lee hooker, boom, boom,

boom until that yellow rose ran across that barroom like a
mississippi briar; pricking those cowboy pricks until they
jumped up, doe-see-doed & allemande left around the bar.

they not only whooped, they howled at the moon.
but the yellow rose of texas
is the only one for me!
they sent bottle after bottle of bud to the bandstand. they
cheered every number thereafter. we felt compelled in the
face of such largesse to repeat the "rose" every fourth song.

the set wound down; the last numbers like small talk after
orgasm. reflective, i sat down at a table in the back of the
bar with my cigarette & beer. i had connected,

i thought, through song in marlboro country. made them
cowpokes touch my humanity. maybe i should rethink the
revolution; take to heart the band's handle – a better mousetrap –

& commit myself to another idea. then mars sauntered over
to my table & sat down. "u sang that song real good, boy.
ain't ever heard the like.” & then he grinned a blood red

feral grin “but folks round here like as not is tonedeaf –
if u catch my drift." i did &we saddled up, that nigger
lovin' band & i, & got the hell out of dodge!

©Joseph McNair;2009


  1. are u still singing?

  2. Only ocassionally in church and at family reunions. I fear i have become "bro. adams" alluded to in my poem "go & sin some more!"