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?
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