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BOOKS & THE CULTURE Commuting Stereo Blues Travelling with the strange-named black men wailing & shuffling from the speakers of my neat sedan listening to Muddy & Lightnin’ & Bo &Magic & Chuck & Sonny & not a plantation in sight listening to B.B. & Buddy & Willie &the road I’m travelling down ain’t no track, boy, away from my midnight woman, but it sure is the freeway from Monday to Friday &Big Bill & Leadbelly been dead years now, but my pain lives on & they’re singing it, though I never lived in a shack with a dozen other kids, never hitched the plough before the sun was up, never ate no shoo-fly pie, got beat by Papa, for the riverboat gamblers, never sang in the Baptist Choir, never shone shoes at the station, had a woman for a quarter, done a year in the chains hey, I got a job, a house, a car, can’t play that harp but you’re singing my pain, you’re strumming my joy, you’re breathing & throbbing for me my brothers, you’re cruising in comfort right here beside me, & I’m singing along with you now, we’re singing our lives together, the black notes sharp in our throats, yeah, the black notes sharp in our throats. ROSS CLARK He’s Not Jack All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. He told me vinegar. The old musician at the next table said it loosens slow, sick blood and spreads it into the tiniest vessels. It’s best to get it over with in the morning but don’t forget the honey. It’s there to soothe. He told me he’s been a witness to lives that were screwdrivers. Round and round in the same groove so long they forgot how to be freed by the discovery of creating, of making something from the colors and motions in the mind. He told me music. That man said creating musiqa’h is a part of what a good life needs. It will keep you in the middle of the teeter-totter that balances what you know. Once you start, measuring the worth of things will mean adding sounds you have heard. So play every night! Play your violin to know that other world where notes are birds but words are sand. It’s never too late to start, he said. Always too soon to quit, he said. A tablespoon a’day is all it takes. JENNIFER VOELKER Jennifer Voelker lives in Portland, Oregon, and is disabled as a result of inner-ear damage. She takes classes through a local community college and is taught by aides and teachers who come to her house. Jennifer has been researching the life and works of poet Hazel Hall. Anyone with information about Miss Hall or with an interest in helping commemorate the seventy-fifth [email protected] this is Jennifer’s first time in print. Ross Clark is a poet, haijin Brisbane, Queensland, in Australia. He was a guest of the Austin International Poetry Festival in 1998, before embarking on a reading tour through Texas and California. \(This poem was, however, Naomi Shihab Nye The Observer’s poetry page is partially funded through a grant from the Austin Writers’ League, in cooperation with the Texas Commission on the Arts. APRIL 2, 1999 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31