Clarksdale, Mississippi (a poem)

Junior Kimbrough’s Juke Joint # 2, Holly Springs, Mississippi

Does anyone else think about Mississippi
and their chest grows heavy
with heart break
because she broke your heart 10,000 times
after you fell in love with her 10,000 times over?

When you get to Lonoke, you’re getting closer to Clarksdale.
And when you get to Holly Springs
they’ll have cold hamburgers
and warm mayonnaise
waiting for you outside Junior’s Juke Joint # 2.

You check into the motel
in Holly Springs
and the front desk girl will clock out
go home
and apply glittery lipstick.
She’ll meet yall at the bar
because it sure does sound fun.

And all of your southern accents will get a little thicker
and all of your words will get a little slower
and all of your laughter will grow a little bit louder
and a cold hamburger sounds very nice right about now.

The gui-tars will play and the walls will shake
just a little
and the floors will rumble
just a little
and people will sing from a place they’d forgotten about
and hands will clap
like the hands at church
but these hands
send sin down into a shallow, happy grave
rather than guilt or regret up heavenward.

And back at the motel, the door key
WILL
be found
and fit
and open #2206
and the floral patterns,
which have been mercilessly printed
onto itchy polyester comforters,
comforters want for washing,
will wrap their tangled vines around
the weak and wicked who fall into their
soft and welcoming mess.

The ice cooler has melted and grown heavy.
The curtains are holding back the sun
with all of their might
like chain-link,
junkyard fences
bracing themselves against the broken down
cars which have been parked, heavy, against them.

The elevator shakes
and DINGS.
You turn in the room key
but she says,
“Now, that’s not necessary, yall.”

And the cruel, unscrupulous sun slaps you in the face,
unprovoked.
But it picks up your keys for you
when you drop them
in the parking lot.
It puts it’s arm, gently, around your shoulder,
points down the road,
and tells you… just exactly…. how to get to Clarksdale.