HE PLAYED FOR HIS CITY

 

The street emptied for dinner, the saxman stayed
though few stopped to listen, and fewer still paid
Stick-figure frame leaned against the old wall
he drained the spit-valve, and polished the bell.

He left the case open for any dropped coin
but it wasn’t the money that kept him going.
It was the city he loved for whom he played
In that magic hour between night and day

From balconies above he felt Louis’ stare
King Oliver’s smile, Bechet’s hard glare
he took a deep breath, put the reed to his lips
And with talent and passion, blew his city a kiss

A flowering vine of sound climbed the walls
traced iron grills, caressed broken windows
with scents of love, passion, and musk
real jazz filled the street just before dusk

He riffed on slaves and cotton and voodoo, too
Bordellos and speakeasies mixed into the roux.
Smuggling and muggings and hurricane terror
were a part of his jazz’s unique, spicy flavor.

No one’s seen him in years, some say he’s gone
Some say he changed hats, and mows other’s lawns
Listen close though, at the end of the day
on a street in Tremé, you may hear him play.

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7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by arjun bagga on December 6, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    A tribute to Mr. Brubeck ?

    Reply

    • I was wandering the streets of new Orleans early one evening, tired of sitting in the bus depot, when i heard this guy start playing his sax. He was riffing on an old bebop tune, I did not know the song, but I will always remember that night.
      Brubeck was an idol, tasteful and innovative, and a good and decent man. this poem is for him and all jazz musicians.

      Reply

      • Posted by arjun bagga on December 6, 2012 at 12:38 pm

        It’s a touching poem, beautifully worded, I gave it another read with Brubeck playing in the background. Magic

      • My half-brother’s uncle is 86; he loves Brubeck and Gillespie, Wes Montgomery, a real jazz dog.

      • Posted by arjun bagga on December 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm

        Ah, let the eternal secret be revealed. If you desire to live long and healthy, music will keep you rolling, not docs

      • I am just starting to discover Bollywood music…love what i have heard so far

      • Posted by arjun bagga on December 6, 2012 at 1:00 pm

        Well, What can I say? last para in ‘My other Jazz poem” describes the state of music in very genre, country. So while you discover Bollywood, I am digging in classical and jazz right now. Most of which you listened to growing up.

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