Piano Bar Blues

Here’s a little something from A Matter of Mind for Friday night.

Piano Bar Blues


I’m just a man
like anyone else. I can

Blue Jay

Blue Jay (Photo credit: steveburt1947)

respect when I place
myself at the keyboard, face
bathed in blue light.
I do alright.

Not like Mary.
Fell in love with a fairy
used to come in all the time.
His name was Harry.
He’d sit here at the piano making eyes
at all the guys.
Mary never got wise.


You know
one thing I know
is you
can’t kiss away the blues.

Not the real blues.

Not the hollow note
deep in your throat
kind of blues
that wake you in the middle of the night
because the silence gets so loud
you can hear starlight


It’s a job.
Last week some slob
laid fifty bucks beside me.
Forget what you see,
he said. I’m not here.
My wife wouldn’t understand.
All I did was hold her hand,
not like I planned
it or anything. So I fanned
his fantasy for a while,
played My Funny Valentine and with style
closed my eyes tight.
I said, I don’t see nobody tonight.

They go away.
Next day
my wife,
who’s best friends with his old lady May,
asks how’d it go.
Real slow,
I say.
Didn’t see a soul I know.


I tell people who come in all the time
you can’t kiss away the blues,
not those lonely in a crowd blues.
Those caged bird
wicker domed
watching from a swinging perch

The kind that weigh
you down even when the door is open
because you get so hungry
not even love
can fill you up.


You know when I saw you two come in
I felt sick
like I was watching someone commit
A no win
like when you begin
a set
and get
an undeniable urge to piss.

Maybe I shouldn’t say this.
After all I see a lot of dirt.
I’ve watched a lot of men chase a skirt.
Jesus, I don’t mean that.
It’s just when you’ve sat
where I’ve sat,

you get tired
of watching friends choose
the place you gotta be to play the blues.


There’s no way.
You can try,
but you’re gonna lose
because there’s no way
you can kiss away
those blues.

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 2004, 2013.

Now I think I need to hear a little Ray Charles before we go.

4 thoughts on “Piano Bar Blues

  1. Nice suite, Joseph. I particularly liked:
    Not the hollow note
    deep in your throat
    kind of blues
    … which just described this emotion perfectly. Some years ago I wrote a poem about a pinao bar – a different take but oyu might like a read:

    The lady in red
    leans on the bar
    tired breasts unharnessed
    slapping against the breakwater
    of the draped bodice,
    the dress
    borrowed for the night;
    in transformation
    from street tough
    to slinky veneer
    of respectability.

    Gaol tattoos wink
    from between the folds
    a butterfly poised
    above a predatory spider
    a scorpion tail
    around withered nipple,
    lost in her own charade
    she hails the bar keep
    ‘g’us a fucken beer mate.’

    The drone of the metros
    and then
    a flotilla of bouncers,
    bald pates polished
    to mean perfection,
    muscles flexed
    against the trouble
    they anticipate
    will excite their night,
    advance with intent.

    The lady in red
    has been here before,
    tilting her glass with
    one finger poised
    in concession to style,
    she skaals her drink
    then heads for the door
    with one fingered salute
    she bids goodnight
    according to the values
    of her class.

    Have a great day, Joseph – Merlene

  2. Thank you Merlene for coming by, and especially thank you for letting me read your poem.

    in transformation
    from street tough
    to slinky veneer
    of respectability.

    What a wonderful image to set up the poem and bring us (I was going to say so easily, but on reflection it’s not it’s a hard transit) into this woman’s night and into her life. I like the poem very much. Piano bars are filled with stories, and if I can borrow a line from Naked City, this has been two of them.

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