• Matt Smythe

SINGING HAPPY BIRTHDAY IN A MISSISSIPPI JUKE

Updated: Jul 10, 2020


In grad school I was working on a poetry manuscript about the Mississippi Delta Blues. Two roadtrips from Virginia rolled me through Memphis, Clarksdale, Ruleville, Mound Bayou, Cleveland, Rosedale, on down to Jackson. I left change at Sonnyboy Williamson’s grave, sat in the gas chamber at Parchman State Pen and walked the grounds of Dockery Farms and the Peavine Railroad. I visited Charlie Patton’s granddaughter, Rose, sat for a sweltering Mississippi hour with a tenant of the Riverside Hotel where Bessie Smith died, bought a glass bottle of Coca-Cola in the town where Robert Johnson was supposedly poisoned (and died), and stood 150 yards out in a completely silent field of blessedly high cotton.


And I went, twice, to a small juke in Merigold.


A quarter-mile up the road from the blacktop turn-off, Po’Monkey’s was a patchwork-and-tin heartbeat hunkered down and leaning against an evening-blue-ink sky. Twenty five cars parked in their own hurried and lazy dusty order. The night air a heavy kiss following a sweet, close exhale. Cold beer in cans. Music as timeless and sweaty and soul-wrenching as you’d expect. Po’Monkey himself, sharp in a suit and tie and hat and cigarred smile. Purveyor of the day’s fine, fine respite.


Almost ten years later, I find this very cool article in Garden & Gun.

Happy birthday, Mr. Seaberry.

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© 2017 By Matt Smythe