Blues for Billy

Billy was a true Blues man,
the happiest  purveyor of the downtrodden
black man’s art I ever knew.
He riffed licks by the cotton-picking bagful,
bending strings to pitch-perfect extremes
and bending hearts as if caressed
like the body of that Strat
he hugged to his own.
Growling or shouting,
crooning or oozing a low moan,
his bloodshot angel eyes
glowed beatific no matter where he turned
personal hells into harmonic heavens.
The empties, brown and green,
stacked on the Marshall at his back
stood deep like the fans, white and black
who came for the show and left for the better.
They called him Wild Bill and
the wild truly lived in him,
poking and pulling his gentle soul
over the boundaries of too much and too late
into a darkness soon too awful and too awfully soon.
That night my little brother died,
we all floated down tear tracks
to that place I’m told the Blues was born,
a delta of sadness, memory and 12-bar deliverence.
I wrote this poem on the occasion of what would have been my brother Bill’s 56th birthday. He was a brilliant self-taught musician, regarded as one of the best Blues guitarists in our neck of the musical woods. The experts tell me he would be regarded as such outside of upstate New York and western New England, too. He died suddenly and our world is sadder and darker now. This one’s for you, Bill. Hope I hit some of the right notes. I’m not used to solos.

22 thoughts on “Blues for Billy

  1. "That night my little brother died,we all floated down tear tracksto that place I'm told the Blues was born"So sad Joe, but thanks for sharing some of your brother with us.

  2. Joe…this one is a tear jerker for me, seriously. And I am not ashamed to admit that I had to pause to wipe a tear. I LOVE this, and can so see that Marshall strapped to his back, and hear the soundtrack to these heartfelt, human, words. The best stories are the tales that are woven in the lives we have lived, and I hear your heart, and your brothers 🙂 Play on Wild Bill Hesch…play on!

  3. 'into a darkness soon too awful and too awfully soon'Your poem and story wrenched my heart. Always so hard when the people we love are taken from us suddenly. Wonderful memories well written, such a lovely and loving tribute to you brother.

  4. i loved these lines:"his bloodshot angel eyesglowed beatific no matter where he turnedpersonal hells into harmonic heavens."lovely tribute you have written here 🙂

  5. The empties, brown and green,stacked on the Marshall at his backstood deep like the fans, white and blackwho came for the show and left for the better. Loved this. Thanks for bringing me a sweet blues song and a tribute to your brother. It helps. Excellent write. Gay

  6. I feel for your loss. His music lives on in you and everyone else who listened to him. He'd be proud of you to share this, I know it, since you have his same musical ear in poetic form.

  7. Joe this is a beautiful piece. Your brothers energy carries forward through as spirited as I can imagine he was. You honor him here and that is the best gift we can give ourselves in loss. My highest love to you for sharing these words ~ Rose

  8. Truly from the heart, Joe. I wish that I had known your brother. I know too well what it's like to lose a brother, and still feel the pain. Your words speak such a deep love for Bill. I can hear the guitar licks rising. Happy Birthday, Bill.

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