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The Blue Guitar

The Blue Guitar

By Lenny Everson

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Copyright Lenny Everson 2017

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Cover design by Lenny Everson

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About this time, you might be wondering, “Didn’t somebody already do a poem about a blue guitar?”

Yes, indeed. Mr. Wallace Stevens published a poem called, “The Man With the Blue Guitar” in 1937. It has thirty-three long sections (“cantos”) about art, performance, and imagination.

My wife, Dianne, always remembered a couple of lines of the Stevens poem:

[Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar.]

I’m not saying my blue guitar poem is better, but at least the lyrics, for the most part, can be played on a guitar. Even a blue guitar. Far more suitable for drunks. The stanzas come out as something somewhere between the Stevens’ poem and Dylan’s “Desolation Row.”

The intention that the lyrics be singable has led to most of them being subject to the rhythm and rhyme schemes that make them suitable as songs. (Try doing that with Stevens’ poem!) There are a thousand tunes you can used for most these stanzas, from “Chili Parlor Bar” and “Desolation Row”, to “Home on the Range” and “Botany Bay.”

Generally, the rhymed verses are in groups of three stanzas. The first stanza defines the subject. The second includes musical words (chord, key, etc.). The third ends (or at least includes) the words “Blue Guitar”, or some equivalent. This is a general, not a hard-and-fast rule.

The poems talk about “a” blue guitar, not “the” blue guitar. Blue guitars are, in this work, associated with change of some sort, positive or negative. The entire poem is a series of short segments; they are not particularly related to each other.

And, in the end

The music of the universe, you know
Is found in tones and stars
The power of a cosmic song
On an infinite blue guitar


A poet’s reality’s sleuth
Poking an aching tooth
Ember and fire, the poet’s a liar
Who always speaks the truth

Feel free to dream the impossible dream
Though each page, your hearse
We’ll remember you guys with crazy eyes
On the road from bitter to verse

Yelling “ things as they are
Will damn well get changed
Upon somebody’s blue guitar!”
Please, on my blue guitar


Sunset and evening star
At The Poet’s Retreat
Tennyson drunk at the bar
Finally admitting defeat

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
Feeling the touch of frost
A poet reduced to Christmas carols
Feeling somewhat lost

I give you the tears of sonnets past
Beyond a bridge too far
And all that breaks the silence now
Is Hansel’s blue guitar


After pigs have spread their wings
One little truth be known
It’s easier to be mad with the other lads
Than to be sane alone

Those two roads, that yellow wood;
In a moment, your life is changed
To the coda of falling leaves
All is rearranged

Let me tell of Heaven, now
The door is still ajar
I know, for now I hear
Faintly, that blue guitar


Oh, I think, when I’ve doe my route
I am, I am, at best
If someone were to puzzle it out
A leaf, not yet at rest

Clouds are gambling with the day
As I set pack by tree
On a hilltop, grasses sway
And winds sing songs to me

The trail is never twice the same
This year is not the last
A blue guitar may change tomorrow
But it lets me keep the past


To the edges of drown and sing
That’s what a canoe is for
And on a cold November day
I’m paddling once more

To the edges of drown and sing
That’s what life is, too
To laugh at icy waters with
A guitar in my canoe

Scudding clouds are chords on
A freezing winter sky
Paddle against the icy winds
To live is not to die.


Summer light in afternoon
Dazzles on the lake
Shattered by my paddling
There are diamonds in my wake

The small bow waves of my canoe
Scatter sunlight. then
Light comes back on the portage
Through leaves, to me again

And when the sun goes down
I make a little flame
And playing a tune on my blue guitar
I add moonlight to my name


The world is a madhouse, she told me one day
Inhabited mostly by clowns.
They whisper together but talk about weather
When the Big Guy is doing his rounds

There’s a secret way out,” they tell each other
So be strong and brave until then.
They talk of a key and how one day they’ll be
Dancing on the streets once again.

They grow old, these clown-faced men
Hearing strange chords from afar
And scratching their balls, they wander the halls
Seeking that lost Blue guitar


Come to me in the night, sometime
When only old men are awake
Come to me when even fish sit silent
In the deepest part of the lake.

We’ll play banshee songs on a saw
And laugh in the face of the moon
We’ll conspire, laughing by fire
With another renegade loon.

The darking clouds that rise in the west
The fall of some lonely star
Are the chorus of night, darkness and night,
An indigo guitar.


Computers someday, with think like us
Or so someone said
But the danger is real that someday we’ll
Think like computers instead

Charlie says when someone asks
Just where the heck he’s been
About five years ago he got
Absorbed into the screen

He travelled down the furthest string
From here to Zanzibar
Was nothing, then everything
And became the Blue guitar


Civilization advances, I’d like to say
Year by year, day by day
In every war when finally you’re
Killed in a brand-new way

Long after the boom when the rest are dead
And you’ve finally begun to hope
In the breeze you’re brought to your knees
By some unseen isotope

Then some ancient ghost stands over you
Whispers, “au revoir”
Laughs and plays your eulogy
On a plutonium blue guitar.


I struggled up the Jesus hill
Fearing there might be changes
God tries to keep things as they are
The devil, rearranges

I tell ya, Murphy’s other law:
Anything that can change, will
As, to the sound of distant strings
We climb Golgotha hill

It’s not done by constellations
Not even falling stars
Devils do it every day
Playing blue guitars


The measured heart of the planet beats
Yesterday’s loving tomorrow
Though time is a tide that never retreats
Ashes, ashes, and sorrow

The moving finger writes once more
And having written my name
Laughs, whistles, and laughs again
Levels, the gun, and takes aim

Oh, the last glowing candle’s lit
At the setting of the sun
And the blue guitar plays once again
Because the changin’s done


We cling to the known but to our sorrow
Someone’s strumming on blue strings
We cherish the known but in Brazil
A butterfly’s flapping its wings

Somebody’s playing a changing tune
That consumes both moth and flame
And I wonder, yes I fear
That I’m part of someone’s game

There’ll be time enough for counting
When the dealin’s done
A new tune on the old guitar
Ah, the setting of the sun


I’ve done my time at my desk
Pretending to be me
I am in truth on river bends
Fierce and fine and free

A flash of paddle on the lake
A dancer on the creeks
In May the old men call my name
But only distance speaks

I pledge my love to water now
My soul to the morning star
And my life to the music on
A shining blue guitar.


You are old, blueguitarman and your notes are too weak
To alter the flight of a fly
And yet you persist in playing your songs
Might you want to tell me why?

As a butterfly’s wings over Brazil, he said
Can direct a hurricane’s route
One soft chord on six rusty strings
Can turn certainty to doubt

Wallace Stevens wasn’t alone
In taking Truth that far
Things and dreams and time and space
Change on a blue guitar


He whispered, “Things as they are
All these solid things
Are subject to the subject of this song
And the changes that change can bring

Under the skies of Palestine
David played for the Lord
Changing the way things would be
String by string, chord by chord

Hallelujah sings the cohen
When too old to play guitar
He laid the blue on each of you
In some cosmic love bazaar


Facts are sliced as if by blue guitars
And the rising moon
It’s a long way to Tipperary,
You’ll get there much too soon

Yeah, a long way if things go on
And no one’s out of tune
There’s always the call of Broadway
And that walking on the moon.

But what of it; this guitar
Is a regular piece of shit.
Thank God, thank God, it will not do
What I ask of it!


Oh the sudden sound of the microwave
That plaintive little “ding”
You’ve made your own personal change
Plucked on a personal string

It’s not so much, I’d like to say
In the scheme of things
It’s what makes the tables turn
And a pawn-shop wedding ring.

Tell no-one you came, but do
Contrive this daily swing,
In the act of heating KD
You hear Blueguitarman sing


Come and share the wind with me
The night is full of tears
On the last portage, we’ll find
Our footprints on the years

Not all roses are red, my love,
Violets aren’t really blue
And upon a broken banjo
Sometimes love changes, too

But three secrets there are to love
And this is what they are
A loving word, a gentle touch
A tune on a blue guitar


I asked God what I should try
He said, “Remember this
The target moves (‘cause everything does)
Always aim to miss

“By the way,” said Dad, looking down
From somewhere in the sky,
“I just help with blue guitars…”
And winked one cosmic eye

“Heathens blame me for everything
Astrologers blame a star”
Then he smiled and said, “You know
You’re the chords on your own guitar”


When I ask, dead Lennons sing for me
With coffee life annoys
Yet rung by rung every poet
Climbs for heaven’s joys

Across the skies of doom and dawn
The Devil vends his wares
Across the skies of doom and dawn
The angels are getting theirs

And all the Devil sells are words
Lyrics for blue guitars
Slow songs, sadly played
In dingy sailor’s bars


Learn to dance to the end of love
(Ignoring, of course, the scar)
Did God really say
“You’re the chords on your own guitar”?

Supposedly master of my fate
Captain of my soul
I couldn’t open the Happiness Gate
Fell into an open hole

I knew I had a world to change
In lines of type on pages
But the freedom I sought in poetry
Merely built me better cages


[email protected]

**** END ****

(well, or part one, anyway….)

The Blue Guitar

"Things as they are," said poet Wallace Stevens in a poem called, "The Man With the Blue Guitar" (1937), "are changed upon the blue guitar." This is a book of changes. Changes to life, love, and our universe. Changes in war, religion, and truth. And in every one, a blue guitar is present, for the blue guitar is the symbol of changes. Good changes, bad changes, and just changes. Written in rhyme, the short poems in this book inspire both thought and laughter.

  • Author: Lenny Everson
  • Published: 2017-06-21 14:35:09
  • Words: 1777
The Blue Guitar The Blue Guitar