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Lay for the Day
19th October

Son House, bluesman, born on 21st March 1903 in Riverton, Mississippi, died on this day in 1988.


Son House

A banging sheet of zinc,
folding, shearing, taking off,
hurricane origami.

The old cat’s rigor,
eyes clear and wide, like the mouth
baring her undulled canines,
the end of sickness outfaced like a night intruder.

Oblique rain beats the transmitted palms and porches
and the foolhardier venturers-out.
Finned cars turned on their long American sides or roofs;
then the aerial overview and the voice-over,
glinting miles of drowned farmland,
bridges going nowhere in the middle of lakes.

Why is this all-steel National guitar
with engraved tracery like the delicate
filaments and blooms of mud
in the slow-receding floodwaters
floating? And why do four blue fingers
like a TV hand caught reflected
in picture-glass, play Dry Spell Blues?
Four blue fingers and a short fast spell
of brass pipe.

Everything that dies goes under the cherry tree,
loser pigeons, beloved cats,
and coming up to Easter
it flowers.

John Gibbens,
from The Improvised Version, Vol. 2

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar