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FEATURE: So Many Roads, Poetry by George Kalamaras
GLT blues radio

George Kalamaras


So Many Roads

for Otis Rush

Otis Rush B&W

So, I’m walking the mountain roads tonight,

Otis. Livermore, Colorado. So many roads. Some in. Some


further in. That’s how your blues fastens me—soulful—

to the Milky Way. To the stars. The fiery orange bend


in Jupiter says you too have eight fluid moons. That your sun

sign, Taurus, gave you a home—far from Neshoba—steadying you into the orbit


of Chicago’s South Side. Your slow-sultry sound. Your long, bent

notes. How could your recording of “I Can’t Quit You Baby”


possibly be as old as me? 1956 is a long life away.

In hearing those riffs, perhaps I, too, fell from the stars,


unable to quit the world. As the Buddha said, we all come back,

time and again. You arrived this time to open our hearts


to the happy-sad that matters. Like the left-handed practice of certain yogis,

you flipped your guitar strings upside down to say what we thought

Otis Rush in cowboy hat

was right could be better said from the opposite end. Like wearing

your cowboy hat on Chicago’s South Side. In Bronzeville. You playing Buddy’s  

Buddy Guy at Checkerboard Lounge

and L.C.'s Checkerboard Lounge in the 70s, just under four miles from where I was born

in Englewood a couple decades before. Did you pace the hospital


corridor, convinced you’d have a white-boy poet as a godson from the stars?

Did you hand out cigars and say, One day he’ll carve my bluest blues


into poems and unto the world? Now you are struggling, Otis. Wheeled

from this venue to that. Your Gibson semi-hollow 355 is quiet. Still,


that happy-sad. Electric cowboy that you are, I always thought you’d take

one of those so many roads and ride off into blistering riffs


of who and what we do. There are sunsets and moon-glow. And sometimes each

is the other. The sun quavering the strange quixotic color of the moon. Like the lightning


light of your left hand bend bending into Peter Green. Into Eric Clapton.

Mick Taylor. Into Bloomfield, Gravenites, and Stevie Ray. I can’t quit you, Otis—


whether in Chicago or Colorado or Timbuktu. And neither

could they. So many roads, and one of the roads they took was you.

Otis Rush family cheers 2016 by Jennifer Noble
Otis Rush & family at Chicago Blues Fest 2016 Tribute to Otis Rush

photo: Jennifer Noble
So Many Roads, is a blues poetry column by George Kalamaras, Indiana's poet laureate (2014-2016). The award-winning poet was born on the South Side of Chicago and grew up listening to the blues--beginning with Ray Charles...(read bio)

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