Sonnet Crown For Blind Tom
by Tyehimba Jess
What the Wind, Rain and Thunder said to Tom
Hear how sky opens its maw to swallow
Earth? To claim each blade and being and rock
with its spit? Become your own full sky. Own
every damn sound that struts through your ears.
Shove notes in your head till they bust out where
your eyes supposed to shine. Cast your lea
brightness across the world and folk will stare
when your hands touch piano. Bend our breath
through each fingertip uncurled and spread
upon the upright’s eighty-eight pegs.
Jangle up its teeth until it can tell
our story the way you would tell your own:
the way you take darkness and make it moan.
Copyright 2010 Tyehimba Jess
Tom Wiggins (1849-1908) was born into slavery. Possessing remarkable skill on the piano, he performed original compositions and popular songs on vaudeville stages all over the United States, played at the White House and did a tour of Europe. An autistic savant, before the term was coined, he is described as having the ability to memorize any piece of music almost instantly. He earned a small fortune for his pre-civil war “family” under the ruse of managing his career.
To read an interview with Tyehimba Jess and the entire poem Sonnet Crown For Blind Tom click on the link below. There is also an excellent article on Wikipedia that provides more information on the fascinating life of Tom Wiggins.
To hear a performance of one of Tom’s original compositions click on the link below: