Tyehimba Jess

Issue #
February 18, 2013

Blind Boone's Rage

Can a blind man kill and walk away?

Can he find the jugular and slide

a blade through the dark, through

the vein - and then escape?

That's what I'd ask myself

in the thick of those days

after I'd runaway from home to make

my mark with a would-be manager.

I'd trod his roads for weeks -

but instead of money, he'd speak

of sudden fees I owed. How my debts

had grown and signed my folks into debt -

that they'd find themselves sued

into ruin if I didn't grind those piano keys

like his trained monkey. This went on

night after night, while in the day

I'd be confined to locked rooms.

Nobody'd listen to a ten year olds'

plea for freedom. He'd tell them

I was in his charge- and a little slow...

and soon enough I began to know

my mother's slavery - note by note,

song by song. He took the one thing

I truly owned and smothered it

with hate till every finger I lifted

for music bore the weight of shackles

and chains. And so, I started to wonder...

about making a blade. How to break

a glass clumsily and smuggle secretly

one long, slick shard. How to wait

for the dead of night to cut him hard

and dead. Yes, my friend. I'm sorry

to say that I felt this the only way

I was going to win myself back again.

I'd gotten low enough to start planning

the spill and the strike - to prepare

myself perhaps for prison...

so it was a damn lucky thing when

my stepfather finally tracked me down

in the midst of my labor, claimed me

for kin and led me out the saloon door.

I swear it now and I swore it then -

I'll never slave my music for no man

again. I ain't bendin over no piano

like a plow on a sharecropper's piece.

I ain't no beast bent to push ivory keys.

I'll be free as I play or I won't play at all

- I'll just play the notes inside my skull

alone in the dark where they roam

around loose. 'Cause playing like a slave,

I'll just step myself straight into

a hangman's noose.

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