Phoebe’s Blues – by Dana Robbins


I wish I were a willow, a lover, a mountain or a soft refrain,
But I’d hate to be a grown-up and have to try to bear my life in pain.

Harpo’s Blues

Phoebe Snow, July 17, 1950 – April 26, 2011


I was sixteen, hanging around the singer
up the street. Late in the day, she emerged
from the dark musty bedroom, stepped over

the clothes on the floor, the overflowing ashtrays,
the guitar leaning against the wall.
As I sat in her kitchen, watching her eat

breakfast at three, cream cheese on a bagel,
she said, “We call this scream cheese;” I asked,
“Does someone scream when you eat it?”

“You’re a weird kid,” she said, meant it
as a compliment. When my boyfriend broke
my heart, she played me an album of Lady Day;

and my small sadness took refuge in that
voice of tears, that beseeching wail,
found comfort in the absolute certainty

that love always leads to pain.
With her frizzy hair and chunky build, Phoebe
was an outsider in those days of ironed hair

but oh, her voice, how it rasped low as cigarettes
then crooned motherly as a lullaby then climbed
up up up like Queen of the Night to pierce the moon.




Following a long career as a lawyer, Dana Robbins entered the University of Southern Maine Stonecoast Writers program from which she received an MFA in 2013.  Her first book The Left Side of My Life was published by Moon Pie Press of Westbrook, Maine in 2015.  Her poetry and essays have  appeared in numerous journals and anthologies.  Her poem To My Daughter Teaching Science was featured by Garrison Keillor.

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