ANECDOTE 039: May 5, 2015
The Banjo Lesson [listen | video]

They were both seventh in line.
Immediate family rules stated
That the last child gets the
Least amount of attention.
Together, that was their luck.

A talent to develop, a practice
To an applied trade as taught by
A tenant living in a ramshackle,
Pastoral setting; the sharecropper,
At night, takes a break from the
Bitterness to chase the evil away,
To find his inner calm; he takes
Time from the toil to preserve
His heart and soul--nurture the
Rhythm and blues extrapolated
From working the earth; this
Legacy he decided to share with
His kin crop: harmony through
Key cords, phrasing twists,
Riff-sentenced lyrics.

Kin Crop, big enough to stand
On his own, yet needed help to
Hold the banjo, became, some
Years back, an apprentice when
His mother spoke the truth--that
He was too old to be tugging on
Her apron--she, busy cooking
Over an open flame: an iron pot
Filled with water, chitterlings, red
Beans, and leafy greens; fatback
Bread in the dutch oven.

"Shoo fly before I make you a pie!"
Kin, a tantrum stomping out the door,
Went over to the damp, musty shack.
"Best better stay out the kitchen before
She lights a fire under your bun,"
Welcomed the old man, he himself
Chided for not being a baby any more,
At his age (fixing for trouble); they
Waited to be called back--dinner,
A solid meal.

The agrarian septuagenarian, in the
Meanwhile, planted a cultivated seed
In young Kin's mind--folk curiosities;
He showed the child how to moderate
Tempo, manage his temper with beats in
A measure.

Playing a not so fancy tune, Kin latched
On and discovered an insatiable hunger;
The pick and strum was now his succor.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

A fine art, visual language--in the present,
Anachronistic representation portrays oral
History; the metaphorical undercurrent is
A fiction without footnotes--a literacy
Literal and literary.

The Banjo Lesson - Henry Ossawa Tanner

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