That’s Why They Call It the Blues

By Howard R. Debs

Today we got the news
Magic Slim died, the last of a triad.
First there was Muddy, then Howlin’ Wolf
now Slim, he’s left, took his guitar licks too.
A procession of Deep South musicians
from the sorry back roads and bayous
of Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana
kept on comin’ up to Chi-town
and electrified the blues
on Maxwell Street and on Chicago’s South Side
where the forebears of rock ’n’ roll
paid their dues in the honkytonks and dives.
Get a sound of your own they said,
and he did. Magic Slim and the Teardrops.
Raining down today, teardrops for
the groove that’s gone away.
Play the Alligator, Rooster, Chess records,
if you can find them, watch the vinyl spinning
on a turntable relic if you can find one
hear the cries of pain, hard luck,
hard times, the blues seven chords,
the mic’d up harmonica wail
that’s why they call it the blues—Coda:

Down on your luck blues,
Pinch a penny blues,
Bill collector knockin’
at the door blues,
Water and stale bread blues,
Sleepin’ in the gutter blues,
Got those only the clothes
on your back blues,
The coughin’ up blood blues,
The hound dogs a comin’ after you blues,
The judge ain’t kind blues
Walkin’ round the prison yard blues
Got a feelin’ I’m never
gonna make it outta
here alive blues.

photo by Howard Richard Debs

photo by Howard Richard Debs

Howard Richard Debs received a University of Colorado Poetry Prize at age 19. After spending the past 50 years in the field of communications with recognitions, including a Distinguished Achievement Award from the Educational Press Association of America, he resumed his literary pursuits. His latest work appears or is forthcoming in The Germ, Calliope, Big River Poetry Review, Jewish Currents, Poetica Magazine, Misfitmagazine, Eclectica Magazine, Star 82 Review, Ardor Literary Magazine, China Grove, Belle Reve Literary Journal, Verse-Virtual, Dialogual, and Piece Meal Reviews. His background in photography goes back many years, both creative and technical, having been involved in management with the notable Wollensak Optical Company. Chicago born and bred, he now lives in sunny South Florida with his wife of 49 years, where they spend considerable time spoiling their four grandchildren.