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September 2017, vol 13 no 3

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J. Todd Hawkins

The New World

Clarksdale

Lomax wrote about this place. On a 1940s Saturday in lay-by season. The New World. The hot red light district up and down Fourth. Between the tracks and the sluggish, muddy Sunflower. Between planting and harvest. Between the first beer and curfew.

He wrote about the fruit seller, the peanut seller, the tamale seller. The women in Chinese dresses strolling Issaquena. Men in pegged trousers, men in worn overalls. And the music pouring from the Dipsie Doodle, the Red Wagon, Catfish Bill’s – flooding from the alley corners – streaming from the train station: The music of the South: of the Nation: of the World.

He wrote about Honeyboy. The man singing “Uncle Sam Blues” – he ain’t no woman, but he sure will take your man. He wrote about slipping into a bar where he copied song titles off the Seeburg jukebox. “Seabirds” they called them. “Let’s go play the seabird.”

in a jay’s shadow
a cicada’s violent trill
then again silence

Today, there is no one out. Today, Fourth Street is Martin Luther King Boulevard, cradling rusty puddles and splitting the graveyard from the First Baptist Church. Still, the door to Messengers Game Room is open. The sign beckons: Bar-B-Q Sandwiches, Rib Tips, Burgers, Hog Maws. Ping Pong Nightly. I heard you can lose your ass betting ping pong in there.

wood ash
rises to the river:
picnic season


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