I used to be somebody—
and every sweet note I coaxed out of
every instrument I played
paid tribute to my abilities.
My life-long favorite would be the guitar
from the moment I picked up my
first one at age 15.
I came from a family of singers,
thundering hallelujahs from the choir loft;
sister singing solo, piercing people’s hearts
with the high lonesome crystal-pure voice.
I sang well enough–who could help it
in a family like mine?
But they saw that my interest lay elsewhere.
I craved the music I enticed from polished piano keys;
the late- night train whistle echoing out of my harmonica;
the shivering note hovering high above the puff of rosin
setting the strings of my father’s fiddle;
and the guitar
with which I played every note on earth and more.
Soft, loud, fast, slow, make you cry, make you dance,
make you sing, make you silent.
Women want to give themselves to men
who play like I did.
Men want to buy you drinks and help you
manage your money.
While I wasn’t looking, women and men both
stole from me, but the drinking stole my soul
till I couldn’t hear the souls of my instruments.
You’d never believe I used to be somebody–
curved like a comma over my guitar
playing magic and loss and love;
now curved like a comma over this bottle of cheap gin.