Three Bucolics

by Jeffrey Burghauser (April 2019)

Dance of the Haymakers, William Sidney Mount, 1845
 29th Appalachian String Band Festival

Banjos can supplicate. Harpsichords can’t.
Éxedral shadows released
Music: Arcadian fiddles that pant
Antically into the creased
     Region of silence against which the fresh,
          Asperous, reddened, unblessed,
               Effortless, fleet,
               Buttery, sweet
          Mouth of the music was pressed.
Memory’s fingers reflexively pose,
Buff into classical heat,
Frame with devotional ornament those
Anythings found in the sweet
     Era that happenstance set just before
          All of the colorless fuss
               Frothing the plain,
               Always mundane
          Era belonging to us.

Roscoe Holcomb, Photographer Unknown
Roscoe Holcomb
His bat-like sound, seemingly mindless,
Harrowingly haphazard, in fact,
Is absolutely certain—certain
As construction progress on a dry
Roman siege ramp; as certain as bone.
He wedged an empty cigarette pack
Underneath his tailpiece, that he might
Obtain the ideal tone; he was not
Alone in learning the banjo as
If it had never been learned before.

Old Stone Church, Jaro Nerad
Sabbath Rest

Here’s the lane
That extends until
Fiddle’s Bane.
Up a mossy hill.
Down a lesser knoll. Repeat.
Thus the upward spill:
Though we’re headed toward the feet
Of God, the air grows reciprocally
Heavy, oxidized, discrete.
Yes, the summit-base conceals a free
Place, ample & weightless as a robin’s breast,
Where banjos & oaten pipes agree;
The afternoon heat is barely overstressed
By the crest of evening’s cool domain,
And the people know the gain of Sabbath rest.

Jeffrey Burghauser is a teacher in Columbus, OH. He was educated at SUNY-Buffalo and the University of Leeds. He currently studies the five-string banjo with a focus on pre-WWII picking styles. A former artist-in-residence at the Arad Arts Project (Israel), his poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in Appalachian Journal, Fearsome Critters, Iceview, Lehrhaus, and New English Review. Jeffrey's book-length collection, Real Poems, is available on Amazon and his website is

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