Fattening Frogs For Snakes

Pea Vine Blues

for Rick Steiger & R.J. Spangler

When the train runs
through your back yard
you know it’s hard to stay
in any one place too long—

Take the Pea Vine Special
hooked up to the Dockery Farm
where the Delta blues
came to flower
just before the first world war—

Pea Vine starts out from Cleveland,
at 4:00 a.m.,
runs two miles south to Boyle
(by Tommy Johnson’s place in 1913)

then over to the private depot
at Will Dockery’s plantation,
west over to Rosedale
& back to Cleveland
before nightfall

And when it’s darkness
on the Delta
you can hear that train coming
from a long way off
& it’s so easy to ride—

Take the Illinois Central
from New Orleans
straight through to Chicago
in 24 hours—one way fare
in 1940

is still just $16.95
or if you catch it
in Memphis
at the top of the Delta
one way to Chicago for $11.10

Or say you don’t wanna
go that far—
catch the Yazoo &
Mississippi Valley RR
& ride the Yaller Dog

up from Moorehead
”where the Southern cross the Dog”
all the way to Tutwiler
where Highway 49 goes east & west
& where, one night in 1903,

sitting in the station,
waiting for a train that was already
9 hours behind time,
trying to get to a gig,
the great W.C. Handy,

”Father of the Blues,”
first heard a Delta man
worry his guitar strings
& sing his little railroad song:

Down by t he station,
catch that train & ride —
why stay in this godfor -
saken place
when it’ s so easy to slide

— Detroit
March 11 > May 26, 1982