by Karla Linn Merrifield

Clapton Is God?

Famed “Blackie” stared back at me through thick plexiglass
at the Met’s 2019 display, Play it Loud: Instruments of Rock and Roll.
I saw him then from both sides, naked front and back,
saw evidence of  wear and tear he withstood much like my own.

And see you now, Eric Clapton, through the eyes
of those dozens of seventies lay-down-Sally chippies
you left by the side of so many backstage byways on your way
to Stratocaster glories and creamy disaster.

How I wanted to reach through the acrylic barrier
to touch the simple Yin and Yang of your storied guitar.
Glad you went straight. Glad you kicked all the nasty crap—
and survived a lasting grief. Glad you’re still alive as of this lyric.

I don’t want to lose you,
I don’t want to lose you,
I don’t want to lose
the blues you’ve given me.

I’m like your “Blackie” on exhibit in a plastic case,
as if built from three different 1950s Fender Strats.
I am black and white, but a cobbled creature; I’ve been battered.
Own up, atone before you die, fallen angel almost risen.

I don’t want to lose you,
I don’t want to lose you,
I don’t want to lose
the blacks and blues you’ve given me.

Diptych: Left Hand, Third Finger

1.         Bonnie, Bonnie, Bonnie

I am your old woman;
I have turned down those lights;
and I am scared to run out of time,
but not yet ready to give up this fight.

you can blues-slay demons
and keening banshees
to set wee fairies free,
then in 12-bars nimbly play me this blissing.

please sing our very nick of being
along this hard way we go
in still believing in this living
by your voice, guitar, music mighty precious.

2.         Yearn

The blues is pain
is that rag and roll
your raspiness

The ache of angels
moans among sexy romps
you emotionally tangy

A gut-stringed slide is
the human voice crying
through ballads you float

rhythm and grief
in an hourglass fleeting
you woman wise touring my heart

In Concert Tuned:

E–as in easy, the six steel strings under your fingertips;

B –as in byzantine—your jazzy riffs like red licorice strings

you’d bind round my wrists … reminding you

of sticky lady lips, sticky music licks;

G–as in g string (satin) you slide along my hips ’n thighs (silky),

like gliding down the frets to resonating body of sonics;

D–as in danger—your life’s puppet strings—

your past almost ignored, its pushes and pluckings,

its syncopated, intermittent discordia;

A–as in archangel arisen on kite strings, sky-ripped, karmic creature

in naked harmonics under your delicate grip; and

E–as in elastic, strings of your heart, of mine—

of each other’s spider web of eighth notes strung

along the tensile-strong improvisational bars of recovery.   

——-for Joe Craig

Departing the Station after Four Seasons of Grief

Your mind is a full city in itself.
And what city would that be?
One mapped by underground….
ou le métro,,,,,, Beantown’s T?
Tate today, L’Orangerie demain ? Isabella’s soon?
I’ll guide you along the full, and good, and clear, and puzzling
subway to the museums of my subconscious;
——–also home of mazes, warrens, mine shafts, bomb silos,
——–ice cores, wells of water, wells of oil,
——–and tunnels famous (Chunnel),
——-obsolete (Rochester Industrial & Rapid Transit Railway),
——–and personal (near summit, near death, Wolf Creek Pass, CO);
display my subconscious in Yggdrasil; disclose my subconscious chthonic—
——–unveil my anima à la Beatrice et Héloȉse
where (in interior soliloquy), I heard Lord Dragonfly humming,
probing his Daliesque imponderable, “What did I unleash?”

Ineffably, a woman of the Earth and all below, is woman
of strawberries wielded in ripening June light,
sweetening for you this urbis self-exhibition—
of my mind’s sweeping  swerves from diminishment;
of mind’s lush diversions proffered well before death.

Coming Up for Air, Idea 2

Artists are the only people in the world who really
live. The others have to hope for heaven.
~ John FrenchSloan, American artist, 1971-1951

Let the 2 of us go “Sloaning” together,
2 poets on the loose in 1-and-only Man-hat-tan;
Pal around with me, pal, for 2…3…4 hours, 2 kindred
spirits sampling for a spell fine-arts’ refined pleasures.

For you, for Sloan, I’ll sport my 1 remaining black beret (atilt),
you, pleasing everyone, in your famous Irish cap (backwards);
We go, 1 in leggings, 1 in jeans, 2 in sensible street-strolling shoes—
2 with 2 wide grins, 2 with 10 fingers clasped.

I’ll ask you indulge me for 2 moments, friend, my passion
for Ashcan artist Sloan, (a 2nd artful muse),
1 ghosting my imagination these delicious days—
50+ poems of 17-syllables, my lines upon his nudes—

In 3 quick mobile clicks, bingo, I find Stop 1:
2 celebrated early Sloan oils currently on view,
uptown, Met 5th Avenue, American Wing,
1 in Gallery 772, 1 in Gallery 774, a 2-fer.

Witness gasping (2 times); watch his brush strokes master me.

Then! Zip! We’ll Uber it to Stop 2,
15 East 7th Street—McSorley’s, est. 1854.
Not 1 drop of Guinness for us 2,
but, for Sloan’s sake, I’ll take 20ish docu-pics 

of his wonderful saloon, almost seeing Sloan’s humanity, again, again,
meticulously depicted in as many as 30 complex color notes. Truly!
Shall we snap a campy selfie or 2 for posterity? What say you?
Capture 1 or 2 shimmerings in these 2…3…4 hours in creative captivity?

I say, Hats off! Yessiree! You, me, John French Sloan. 1 inspired 3-some, IMO.

Karla Linn Merrifield has had poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies, with 14 books to her credit. Following her 2018 Psyche’s Scroll (Poetry Box Select), is the newly released, full-length book, Athabaskan Fractal: Poems of the Far North from Cirque Press. She is currently at work on a poetry collection, My Body the Guitar, inspired by famous guitarists and their guitars; the book is slated to be published in December 2021 by Before Your Quiet Eyes Publications Holograph Series (Rochester, NY).