POETRY: JOHN GREY – HEARING ‘TRANE

HEARING ‘TRANE

 

Back in the dark ages,

before pizza delivery.

When it was hip.

When no one ever mentioned money.

When the club itself

sat like dark candy

in a proffered hand.

 

When we stopped listening the moment

we started listening.

At least, our listening

owed little to our ears.

They said you’d never hear the music

over the bar-tenders

harassing the customers

to buy more drinks.

So impossibly new to this,

we didn’t hear the bar-tenders.

First time, Suze and I

had ever been some place

more black than white.

Soon learned sweat is color-blind.

 

And ‘Trane on stage,

place so cramped

there was nothing to

know but music,

but how spit and metal

made it so,

that latest version of his band

with Tyner and Garrison and Elvin Jones,

names that, even then,

I couldn’t match with people,

that were more like departure

and arrival points on the same

weird train schedules,

that hustling locomotive

that didn’t know a side-track

from a main-line,

that swept them all in

to its steamy fury,

with that tenor sax-man

shrieking the whistle,

stoking the coals,

pushing his foot so hard down on the accelerator,

his face hear popped its veins.

 

The joy of a dark night’s endlessness –

time, itself a solo, teasing us with the way

it only seems to go in order –

where sense takes a cigarette break,

where each crisis is met by a top-this passion

by virile note after note after note

and the shot-glass glimmer –

and the edge, the rapturous edge,

where angels think wings, play licks, where

the wildness obeys his lips, his sound where

we hold hands, we hold the rhythm together

until that’s all but impossible

but then let go so hard, so fierce,

we catch up with it anyhow

but just our hearts up and down,

their own pentatonic scale,

the joy unmuffled,

the word “exude” built there and then

from jazz’s stark phonetics,

the whiff of everything

that is not a drug

that acts like a drug

sometimes looking down

requiring a leap of faith even

to identify our own bones.

 

A night, with no oxygen,

that grabbed its air from other sources.

A night where the one I was with

was just one of the many I was with.

Did Elvin and ‘Trane really stretch that for an hour,

the one riff like this one life

boiled down, broken up,

remade in all its possibilities?

And Suze?

We went there to learn to love

but not to love each other.

Sorry…I just didn’t remember

who said “Give me a call.”

A night with nothing I would change.

A wanting, a deliverance, and its own soundtrack

 

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