In leadbelly, Tyehimba Jess' first book of poetry based on the life of legendary blues musician Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, the language is electric, abounding with the guttural thrum of the blues and the broken-down dust of Leadbelly's South.
from mary on martha
he was a casketful of tune
that made danger look like duty.
the swampland songster wanted
to swallow the world and spit out a rind,
to flood our skulls with the weight
of loss left coiling in his soul.
and if you weren't careful
he made you want to be in his song;
fill the gap between his breaths,
the space between his hands
blooming with guitar.
made you want to forget
he was tryin' to dig his way
out of his own grave.
From leadbelly copyright © 2005 Tyehimba Jess, published by Verse Press. Used with permission.