Playing Blues Harp Alone in an Unfinished Basement

Playing Blues Harp Alone in an Unfinished Basement

by Justin Hamm


At a ballgame once,
I saw a great hero
with comic book biceps
launch three home runs
of gargantuan distance.
He circled the bases
more slowly each time,
as if perhaps he grasped
just how fleeting
his greatness would be,
but no, I rather think
he meant to embarrass
the pitcher, a renowned
arrogant goateed villain
who liked to fill
the daily news with
the legend of himself.

That hero fell, of course,
and to such depths
that a common stooge
such as myself
can now feel justified
in pitying him—
and I do pity him,
not for losing greatness
but for having ever
borne it at all.
You see, friends, once
a person has reached
the pinnacle, he can never
again find any real
pleasure in being
well and truly inept.

I’m glad there’s
no chance I’ll ever
ascend to greatness.
I prefer to know
how sweet it feels
on a stray Saturday
in late April, let’s say,
the wife and the baby
off in town, visiting,
plenty of cold beers
stacked in the fridge,
to toss the drywall knife
on top of the unopened
bucket of joint compound
and drop the needle
on Howlin’ Wolf instead.

I know we’re not allowed
to admit such scandals,
but every now and again
I like to be reminded
most of what I do
doesn’t really matter.
I like that I can
simply close my eyes
and blow along
with boozy conviction
and see the humor
a few minutes later
when I discover my
suppose’d best friend
and confidant the dog
has once again buried
her head deep in the laundry
piled in the corner.


-refers from the word “needle” in Jim Valvis’s story Someday You’ll Understand.

  1. Love this, especially the “comic book biceps.” Nice sound throughout.

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