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Banjos make me blue. There’s
pain in that frenetic pickin’
fueled by moonshine and misfortune,
pain that goes all the way back to Ireland,
black potatoes and fickle lasses,
the death of lovers or worse.
Fiddling can get downright dolorous, too,
that high lonesome keening,
the breakneck pace
the manic flipside of poverty.
shouting on the hills of glory
but returning to the shack
to find the chickens dead
and Pretty Polly’s tearstained letter.
Picture Shelley plucking a banjo,
Shelley in one of those silk
two-toned cowboy shirts
singing through his nose
about how the saddest songs
end up being the sweetest,
a fiddle taking up the strain,
a quick, pained grin to the audience
as he nods his head to the music.