Selected Poetry: 1974-
THE BLUES SINGER
a story by
Paul Seifert, M.D.
Published: ALDEBARAN Literary Magazine
Roger Williams College
Bristol, Rhode Island
"BLUE POINTS, BEER, AND THE BLUES"
The iridescent, azure neon logo glistered into his bloodshot eyes, as he drove past. He found himself inexplicably hooked and decided to stop, his action definitely an impulse buy. He downshifted, hung a sharp U-turn, and eased his roadster back up the ebony, yellow striped asphalt to the cabaret. Tired, he had miles to go before he could sleep.
Inside, the clapboard, Louisiana bistro was Old South garish, the decorative appointments overworked, too crassly designed to be seductive for his tastes.
He might have turned and left, but found himself unable to do that.
Ambling over to a filigreed wrought-iron table, offset like an outcast near the stage, he ordered a dozen blue points on the half shell and a schooner of beer. The latter came--a pleasant surprise--in a frozen mug, the rim edged in rime.
The chilled oysters slid down his throat easily, fresh as they usually are near the big river delta and the sea. He badgered the waitress without commitment--intrigued with her accent, but unmoved by her scanty uniform--before accepting the two-for-one special on the delectable draft--last call before the music, when the prices stiffened.
"Who's playing?" he casually asked.
"A blues singer," came the laconic reply.
Some promotion, he thought, when the server had left. The performer must be a superstar.
He might have left then, but found he was unable to do so.
When the performance began a few moments later, his expectation of an aging black gentleman who would share with his audience the art of seducing a twelve string guitar, some callous experiences of life in the deep South, maybe a story or two of lost love, tarnished by the perfidy of the human heart was not met. The blues singer who did appear was far different from this presumption. He did not actually see the singer take the stage behind the veil of his preoccupation. Suddenly, she was there, adjusting the mike, which she fingered with cool, yet erotic, detachment.
She was unaccompanied, except by a back track machine. She had drawn a barstool into position and had sidled to the microphone. Without introduction, she began to sing.
Slowly, he allowed the blue point, impaled on the end of his fork and dripping with hot sauce, a measured return to his plate. He reached for his beer and gulped a hefty swallow. The blues singer was strikingly beautiful in the subdued pastel lighting that softly illuminated the stage, but he could appreciate the betrayal of age in the subtle detailing of a tarnished face. The blues singer's lips were full and glistening within the compass of a muted spotlight. These pouting lips gave her face a manipulative command of the enunciation of sound, as they teasingly approached and then withdrew from the dark black head of the mike.
The blues singer's body was one she obviously lived in easily. She used this body expertly, as she began to interpret her song. He found that he had not been listening to the initial stanza, so mesmerized had he become by the blues singer's expressively melancholy eyes, which were magnetically locked upon his.
Finally, the music began to reach him. The experience was overwhelmingly pleasurable, but simultaneously unsettling. Never before had a performing artist sung so directly to him alone. The cold beer had given him a noticeable rush, logically a consequence of boredom and road fatigue.
He leaned back into his chair, as the song of the blues singer wafted over him like a stream of warm spring rain. The notes seemed to be taking origin in the mists rising out of the bayous, taking flight like a low flying formation of sea birds assuming a filmy veneer of sadness and pain as they flew. Innocence seemed buffeted in the throaty turbulence that each cast off note brought to his ears, the sound searing through him, bearing down on him like anvils of oppressive, yet welcome anguish. As they slid across the smoky space between the blues singer's world and his own, the notes cried out of poor loves abandoned in the voices of creatures entreating mournfully beneath a yellow harvest moon. Emulating the million silver throated love songs of the mockingbird, the blues singer sang of unrequited devotion, of betrayal, of the missed opportunities of spirits who fail to meet at their crossings. She also sang of dusky lust oozing from the sultry heat of the bayous.
He felt that he should leave, but he found he could not do so.
The sonorous tones pirouetted through the air in a dance of music like nothing he had ever heard before. Was it the blue points, the beer, or the blues that was making him feel so involved? The blues singer continued to empty her heart. She placed her story into the undulating waves washing in fluid sympathy across his jaded and callous sensibilities. He fought to constrain himself from weeping--which he never did. The blues singer was offering him her song, her life, no doubt her love, should he simply ask for it. He thought about Maggie May, of Venus and Adonis, of Phaedra and Hippolytus. He fantasized making love to the blues singer later upon some bed of unmitigated pleasure, offering her solace, temporary alleviation of the wrenching loneliness that resided in the empty places from which she was giving wing to her song. He traced the aging hollows of her eyes with an imaginary, tremulous hand, and watched the heaving, inviting rise and fall of her breasts, as the blues singer brought her story to a lingering close.
She seemed to be impaling each of her final notes upon reeds swaying somewhere in the sultry summer air that was oozing in through the open window, oozing in from the ancient bayous that lay steaming behind the Blue Points, Beer, and the Blues bar.
As the blues singer's song ended to anemic and reluctant applause, a small flying thing was incinerated by a naked light bulb suspended high above the stage and fell through the shimmering darkness of the stage lights to the impenetrability of nonexistence.
Unable to remove his eyes from those of the blues singer, he blindly fumbled for a twenty-dollar bill, which he gently placed into a crystal bowl upon the stage. Then he rose and left the cabaret, his heart racing with unaccustomed anxiety. He reached the protective mantle of the humid delta night, where he soon found solace in the monotonous, sinuous track of a seemingly endless road.
Watching him leave, the blues singer readjusted her mike. She surveyed the darkened room, perhaps in search of a better prospect. She softly cleared her throat, anticipating another sad, but hopeful song.