105_0596a“Art is never finished, only abandoned,” said the man who painted The Last Supper and The Mona Lisa and drew the Vitruvian Man. Leonardo da Vinci should know.

It seems an apt statement for creative writing as well, no matter the form.

I wrote “Blue Notes” several years ago while living in Tucson, but was never really sure I’d finished it.  It seemed to leave its subject unresolved, a town (and its people) in slow and silent decline into the dust from which it rose.  I’ve felt the poem was missing either the spark of optimism or the mercy of certainty.

Yet sometimes the blues are not just a beat.  Sometimes they just don’t end.

I’ve come across another observation about art which I hope applies to this poem.  It’s from Paul Gardener (Strength to Love, 1963):  “A painting is never finished.  It simply stops in interesting places.”



The colors of this town, once vibrant and proud,
Have blanched toward white, tan and brown.
House paint and trim and storefront signs,
Once bright of hue are faded and rimed.
Even the tags of graffiti, once full of bluster
Have lost their energy, have lost their luster.

Streets made wide for traffic and bustle
Are now empty, barren even of rustle.
Few drivers use them night or day.
Pavement has turned from black to gray,
Neglected, bled dry from heat and cold,
Dry alligatored skin, tired veins of road.

Great green trees that once graced yards
Have been cut to stumps dry and hard.
Picket fences are now chain link barriers
To keep dogs in or to keep out strangers.
Used-up cars sit in driveways and yards,
Wheels off, windows broken, doors ajar.

It has faded, lost its color, this town they are in.
Jobs are gone; hope oxidized; life has dimmed.
Up in his rented room at Third Ave. and Star,
Tuck looks over the street and fingers his guitar.
He sets his tempo slow to mirror the view,
His hands, all tendons, play at the blues.

Over on Silo Street, a block from the tracks,
Sherlynn stares at her table, her bills in stacks
Sorted by type, dollar amount and age.
She turns them, over and over, page by page.
She takes one envelope, this one for electricity,
And on its plain white back, jots lines of poetry.

Coralee opens the door and turns on the lights.
It is dark in the church, even in broad daylight.
Her strong tenor comes in and says he’s leaving;
Her choir has shrunk from fifteen to near nothing.
She sits on the floor and stares up at the chancel.
She makes a sign that practice has been cancelled.

Jimmy Jones climbs in an old Merc up on blocks,
Finding a place to settle and clear his thoughts.
He lays out long on the sprung vinyl seat,
An armrest for his head, a window for his feet.
After a bit, he lifts the employment section again,
Tips his glasses, and draws doodles with a pen.

J. S. Anderson

Photo: New Mexico, by J. S. Anderson

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