Tyehimba Jess

Issue #
February 18, 2013

Blind Boone's Escape

Even a blind man might run away
from folks that won’t see things his way –

That’s what I told myself when
I packed my bag and bailed out
of the St. Louis School for the Blind.
My whole town had pitched in
for tuition, dime by dime, cause
we’d been told they’d teach me
more piano. They did, for a time –
and I’d fallen hard in love with
its ivory lessons. But then? Listen –
the new schoolmaster came to say
that piano was to stay clear of black
hands and our unlearned ways.
I was banned from the music room
and given straw to manufacture
brooms with my other colored mates.
But who was this fool to decide
my fate? I fumbled my way out
the school’s back gate. I’d been swept
out by their broom philosophy,
straight into the streets of sweet
St. Louis. Her alleys and gangways
awaited my touch. I struck out
toward the salt sticky sounds
of barrelhouse drama. Toward the
pimps and johns and cathouse
groan that seemed to run on
syncopated piano and moan.
I could smell the sin and taste
the grown up rum of laughter
spilling under a setting sun…

Damn, I was dumb. Could’ve
been killed. But still, here I am.
And I will remember that night
under a sky that I knew must be
stuffed with a million tunes
I could almost hear from my
grassy bed. I’ll never forget…
I leaned in to wear it like a bowler
tipped hard across my head.

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