In memory of Papa Jo Jones & Philly Joe Jones
There’ll be all the requisites
& O how exquisite
the presence of night blooming
jazzmen & women, flowering
in aurora borealis like all the rounded
midnights & Moscow nights and New Delhi
dawns you ever wanted to drop in on
or sit in with or pencil
into your calendar of unscheduled delights.
There’ll be love in all its liquid
power, rhythmic & brassy; mellifluous
forms, flashing flesh & the slippery
glittering skin of your teeth;
enchantment, male & female;
the orchid chords of hothouse scat
as pop song, as darkness sweetened
with light; the ascension of steps
that lead to some sumptuous Park
Avenue apartment where a bemoanable lady
lives, sophisticated to a fault, in need
of this bittersweet cultural chocolate,
this quiescent sensation of an invitation.
It’ll be big, this gig called life;
the biggest. Johann Sebastian Bach
knew what it was like to bop
through a shower in the late afternoon,
then hang out in your hotel / motel / do-tell
room, wonde-ring what time it really is
back in Iowa City or New Orleans or
the New York of all New Yorks or Rome,
the home you just left the way
autumn leaves—suddenly. Or now it’s Paris
where it’s going to be wine & cold sandwiches
while you’re longing to dine on collard greens
& blackeyed peas with ribs & sauce
hot enough to burn away the sauerkraut &
pig’s knuckle of international loneliness.
You’ll make your calls & sail off
into an aria or a deep toccata; in short
you’ll honor the invitation your heart’s
been cabling you direct from the ace,
fulfilling all those requisite licks
so exquisite to the crowd whose roar
will silence all the circus lines
the blue-hearted you never got to deliver.
And it’ll be the livers of life within who’ll know
how répondez s’il vous plaît should play.
Just plan to sit and make yourselves at home.
Al Young, a nationally renowned novelist, essayist, screenwriter, professor and poet laureate, died April 17. He was 81. More on his life at Berkleyside.