Singing the Blues


Ma Rainey Mother of the Blues


By Andrea Scarpino

Los Angeles


Los Angeles is on fire again. Through my thin apartment walls, I heard my neighbors scream and swear at each other. A dear friend of mine has recently been diagnosed with MS. Another had surgery this week and still another had surgery last week. I’m working more than I want to be, making half the pay that I should be making. I don’t feel that my work is appreciated, let alone understood. I’ve argued with friends over whether marriage is an oppressive institution, whether the health care debate is largely about white American racism. I’ve argued with my students. I’ve argued with my mother.

I’m frustrated by my writing, by poetry’s never ending subjective state. I’m frustrated by my hair. I miss my father, my childhood dog. I miss the weeping willow tree outside our home in Michigan, and the way lake water lapped at its roots. I’m tired of bad poetry readings and this country’s bizarre fear of socialism. I’m tired of people who don’t believe in our impending environmental catastrophe. I’m angry that every year, gun-toting Americans buy 30 bullets for every person (even children) who lives here. I guess so they can kill each one of us 30 times.

There are always good things, of course. Yesterday, I ate eggplant caviar and carrot cake. I ran nine miles, the longest I’ve run since I changed my stride to forefoot striking. I bought 12 glow sticks at Target for one dollar and turned off all the lights in my apartment to watch them glow. Today, I may read Proust. I may eat seaweed salad. I may sit quietly and breathe. There are always good things, of course. But right now, I’m tired of the fight.

At the end of “Song of Myself,” Walt Whitman writes, “I stop some where waiting for you.” On days like this when the blues creep into everything I do, I remember that line and it makes me believe everything will be fine after all. Even if the state burns to the ground, even if we never change our health care system, even if I never again get another poetry journal acceptance, even if. . . . There is Old Walt Whitman with his bushy white beard, maybe sitting under a tree, maybe with some apples in his hands to share.


Andrea Scarpino, poet, essayist, community activist, editor, teacher, friend of philosophers and animals lives in Los Angeles and is the West Coast Bureau Chief of POTB. You can visit her at:

0 thoughts on “Singing the Blues

  1. I felt like this once too ~ and I ran for the hills. OK, not quite the hills, I ran for the coast, and the Jurassic cliffs of Sidmouth, Devon, UK.
    Sidmouth is a town in a time warp ~ it’s like stepping back into the 1950s. There is less traffic, less hustle, less crime, and a gentility about the place.
    The jurassic cliffs are timeless and remind me of how brief our own stay on earth is ~ and therefore remind me to enjoy this day.
    The sea is comforting ~ just listening to the waves wash on to the pebble shore is enough to relax a racing heart.
    I hope you can find your own place of peace.
    Best wishes.


  2. There’s something in the air — literally, here in southern Cal — and figuratively, I think. I’m with you on all counts (except maybe Proust!) and grateful that you continue to write. I myself sometimes am so fed up that I feel like running to the proverbial hills with favorite books of poetry. Or, at the very least, living like Candide and just tending the small garden that is my life most of the time.


  3. Keep writing. What I’ve read here is wonderful–full of vividness that invites this reader to imagine the fullness of your life, its longing, its keen point of view and elegant expression. Keep writing. Some where your readers are waiting for your next work.


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