Thursday, March 24, 2011
Eagle and Snake
Not long ago Michael Montlack, who edited the Diva anthology which contains "Seeds and Orphans," my Wendy Waldman essay, was kind enough to invite me to write about Joni Mitchell for an anthology of poems to come out sometime soon. Here is my contribution, which wants to think about Joni and the contradictions of love through her unorthodox guitar tunings. Those of you who know the Don Juan's Reckless Daughter period will get some of the references embedded here.
Eagle and Snake
(after Joni Mitchell)
You wrecked the guitar; you made it yours. I know which side I'm on, though that doesn't mean I get what it was like to stand up to the men. Tune the bottom string down to what? The top string to—That's twisted. I hear them saying it, and they never get used to it. Tighter strings can stress the neck, but you cracked open the orchestra, C to restless C. All you had to do was lay a finger behind the fret. The guitarmaker must have winced when he saw you coming, reckless daughter of Don Juan, and he must have hidden his favorites in the back room. You went through guitars like you went through men, though I bet it was kinder than I'm making it sound. They took to your hands on them. You stayed friends with them. They wanted you to show them what they'd secreted away, though none of it came without breakage: busted strings, slack action, fret buzz. This is what love might be. It took us years to get there, but you heard it long before we did, even before you lifted the instrument. Eagle and snake, kindness and wreckage: six strings holding us down between saddle and machine head. And just when it gets to be too much, a song comes.
Don Juan's Reckless Daughter:
Don Juan's Reckless Daughter - Joni Mitchell by ctdmedia