Fattening Frogs For Snakes

The Delta Sound

to Robert Palmer in Deep Blues

”Ain’t too many left
that plays the real deep blues
. . . ain’t too many more left . . .
”There ain’t too many left
sings the type of blues
that I sing . . . .”

—Muddy Waters,
to Robert Palmer
in Deep Blues

From the lobby
of the Peabody Hotel
of the Peabody Hotel
in Memphis
”where the Delta begins”

down Highway 61
through Tunica
& into Clarksdale,

This is where the music
was born and bred
in miles & miles
of cotton fields,

one room shacks,
dirt roads stretching
across the countryside,
standing at the crossroads

where 49 meets 61
or waiting in the dark
for the train
to make it

down the track
& jump on board
because anywhere else
is better than this place—

This is where the music
came to be,
boogie lightning
against the sky,

Tommy Johnson
& Charley Patton
making their pacts with the devil
at the stroke of midnight,

at the crossroads
of Africa
& America,

black men & women
dragged in chains
& shippped in chains
& whipped

into Mississippi
where the music
came to life
under the whip

& the gun
& hours of relentless sun
beating down every day
on the slave peoples

cutting trees,
pulling stumps like mules,
plowing the cleared land,

picking cotton
dawn to dark,
the music deep inside them
coming out in grunts

& groans
& the moans of the spirits
of the ancestors
in the train whistles,

in the air,
the land soaked
with their blood,

the night alive
with the spirit voices
over their crops,

the fruits of their labors,
the richness of the land
a constant mockery,
everything they made

was taken away,
everything was stolen
from them

but the music
made life go on
& moved peoples
to stay alive

& led them out
of the Delta
to Chicago
or Detroit

but some big city, some
other place
where no cotton grows
& the crackers

wear suits
or carry lunch pails
& the plants
pay that good money

& the music gets harder
& louder, lightning
electricity leaping from the walls—

The Delta Sound
brought to bear on the City,
deeper than deep, from where
all feeling rises—

The Delta Sound . . . .
”Ain’t too many left . . .”
”Ain’t too many more left . . .”
Ain’t too many left at all . . . .”

— New Orleans
May 10, 1982 /
Detroit June 3, 1982