Saturday, March 24, 2012


His hand was broken in a fight and was now deformed.
A fire burned off Djano Reinhardt’s fingers.
In neither case did difficulty preclude desire.
Doug Harper was too volatile to stay out of jail.
He drank whiskey, smoked reefer, loved life. He said No
when friends brought out the spoon and needle and hose.
Purely the need to survive to play his alto saxophone.
He was an ex-con anyway. Lucky he lived through the joint.
Doing time for killing a guy in self-defense. Over a girl,
the guy’s girl. Blood pouring from Doug’s eyes, they wrestled
on the floor, and the guy brought up a gun from somewhere.
Doug turned the hand around that held the gun that fired.
With his good hand. When Doug was young he was a fool.
Now he loved to blow his horn. Endlessly, until he had to leave
the downtown warehouse with its large room
filled with such a pure sound it echoed. Home, he went to sleep
playing Dexter Gordon on the aging stereo.

He found little rivers inside his head; they flowed through
his watery soul. Skies over Puget Sound filled with clouds
resembling DG. A friend who wrote poems had one
called "A History of Clouds." History of all the shapes
clouds make in passing. As life passes.
Every night after playing his horn all day
he smoked and took his drink to the street. Invariably,
cops clamped him in a cell to sleep it off. Then
he met a girl who listened to him play, longing to love him,
and she brought him luck and came along to hear
Sanchez & Company, this brilliant young woman
who knew Spanish and Italian, but spoke only English to him.
She was his Sarah, her name was Myra.
Sarah was the name of the singer who could scat like DG honked.
After work Myra was with him when he drank so much
he fell off his chair and slurred what he needed to say, Once
no one was home. Now Myra came home with him.

Doug had no idea how a beauty like Myra could love him
except for the sound he made out of devotion to Dexter Gordon.
Doug hated it his hand curled under when he moved it just so.
He wanted to forget it when the music was flowing.
Myra laughed when he called her Sarah. Same color skin
as Sarah Vaughan, she said, but the voice is missing.
Doug said to her, Even white boys have impossible dreams.
Some afternoons he played his horn to put Myra to sleep.
She loved that. Maybe because the house she came from
was always filled with sound she loathed when she was little.
Doug listened to Myra narrate the blows of her childhood.
Life was like that, something to get away from
as soon as you can, and stay away forever. Not that she could.
She still brought money home. She said she knew
her folks drank it all away. She paid her dues.
When Sanchez said Doug’s gig was for keeps he stopped drinking.
She helped him stay quit so he could play what he’d never heard.

(20 March 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

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