Not Guilty By David Rivard
The days are dog-eared, the edges torn,
ragged—like those pages
I ripped once out of library books,
for their photos
of Vallejo and bootless Robert Johnson.
A fine needs paying now
it’s true, but
not by me.
I am no more guilty
than that thrush is
who sits there stripping moss
off the wet bark of a tree.
A red fleck, like his, glows
at the back of my head—a beauty mark,
left by the brain’s after-jets.
I would not wish for the three brains
to double-clutch his guitar
and chase those sounds he had to know
and into a troubled dusky river, always.
Three brains did Johnson no earthly good,
neither his nor Vallejo’s 4 & 1/2
worked right exactly—O bunglers,
O banged-up pans of disaster!
Crying for days, said Cesar, & singing for months.
How can I be so strong some times,
at others weak? I wish to be free,
but free to do what? To leave myself behind?
To switch channels remotely?
Better to sing.
Not like the bird, but as they sang,
Cesar & Robert—
with the shocked & seeded
sweetness of an apple
split open by a meat cleaver.
Source: Bewitched Playground (Graywolf Press, 2000)