The Blues Don’t Change

By Al Young b. 1939 Al Young

“Now I’ll tell you about the
Blues. All Negroes like Blues.
Why? Because they was born with
the Blues. And now everybody
have the Blues. Sometimes they
don’t know what it is.”
        
        —Leadbelly

And I was born with you, wasn’t I, Blues?
Wombed with you, wounded, reared and forwarded
from address to address, stamped, stomped
and returned to sender by nobody else but you,
Blue Rider, writing me off every chance you
got, you mean old grudgeful-hearted, table-
turning demon, you, you sexy soul-sucking gem.
 
Blue diamond in the rough, you are forever.
You can’t be outfoxed don’t care how they cut
and smuggle and shine you on,  you’re like a
shadow, too dumb and stubborn and necessary
to let them turn you into what you ain’t
with color or theory or powder or paint.
 
That’s how you can stay in style without sticking
and not getting stuck. You know how to sting
where I can’t scratch, and you move from frying
pan to skillet the same way you move people
to go to wiggling their bodies, juggling their
limbs, loosening that goose, upping their voices,
opening their pores, rolling their hips and lips.
 
They can shake their boodies but they can’t shake you.

Al Young, “The Blues Don’t Change” from The Blues Don’t Change. Copyright © 1982 by Al Young. Reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press.

Source: The Blues Don’t Change (Louisiana State University Press, 1982)

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Poet Al Young b. 1939

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Subjects Living, The Mind, Arts & Sciences, Music

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Al  Young

Biography

Poet, novelist, and professor Al Young was born in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. He attended the University of Michigan before moving to the San Francisco Bay area, where he earned a BA in Spanish from the University of California-Berkeley. Young often reads to musical accompaniment, and his poetry reflects his interest in music, specifically jazz and blues, as well as his life in California. His collections of poetry are . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, The Mind, Arts & Sciences, Music

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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