Letter Written on a Hundred Dollar Bill
                —To Howlin’ Wolf, from Mississippi
Did your right hand itch when I transcribed your O
don’t you hear me cryin? phrase I’d pay a hundred dollars
to raise my voice into, cause you got money for sure,
not like Son House in the nightclub film, drunk
as a goat glutted with rotten apples and waving a sawbuck
like a flag, but stacking up in a New York office
like a locomotive’s chimney if I keep this going
and then I imagine raining down into the world below
or uncurling on a magnolia only you know
how to find, my hundred plucked, still crisp,
then rolled up in your pocket as you walk again
from White Station and West Point to Grenada,
Ruleville, Rosedale with a guitar on your back,
where you meet Charley Patton again.
You pull out the bankroll and count off a Cadillac
so y’all can cruise to Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago,
unpack at the 708 or Silvio’s and maybe House
is already there at the bar, rediscovered
and thirsty for oblivion, when Sumlin walks in
with Dixon and you’re ready to pitch it again,
and the microphones are humming so you can invent
rock-and-roll or whatever it is Eric Clapton
tries to play in that London session when you take over,
showing him that music is a kind of language,
you just say this, you just call roosters and cats
and airplane pilots into the club, the whole
Wang Dang Doodle of the afterlife catching your notes
like undampered pianos and sounding long after
you’ve gone down the blue highways back to Jackson,
Nashville, Lebanon where your girl stands in the door
of the house you kept together as peaceful and bright
as the day you met, you’re gathering everyone you know
and rolling down to Natchez where the fire
hasn’t ashed the Rhythm Club and the whole town’s
waiting for you to take the stage, maybe costumed
like an engineer or busking like a janitor,
the mic taped to a broom handle, the sheet-metal walls
shaking when you let out your O,
O there is no sound like this in the world above
except the one you engraved in the great disc of the night
that spins above us, through the hole of which
every C-note floats to bud from that one magnolia
somewhere in east Mississippi where this sound was born.
When you walk down the dirt roads each night,
when you pull your hands from your pockets, the lint
turns everything first-Spring green,
and when you open your song you light the underworld
with a throat and a mouth full of gold. 
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