May 2008 - THE POTOMAC



Village Vanguard: June 25, 1961
   Mitch Roberson

How many of the audience
making so much noise—clinks
of glasses, close-quartered
 
shiftings in suits and smart dresses,
smoky somethings mouthed
into a tendered neck—are still alive

is impossible to know.  How many
of the personnel?  One.  The bassist
died ten days later, veering his car
 
into a tree.  Bill Evans, hunched
over the keyboard as if the music
were his soul holding on to his body

as long as it could, was already dead. 
The heroin just took its time.  What
remains is the way Evans gently attacks

the keys on “My Foolish Heart,”
the way Motian’s drums
are not an instrument of percussion

but of friction, and LaFaro’s bass,
a tuning fork in the chest resonating
from that day to this, to this chest.

 

"A Woman Without a Man Is Like a Fish Without a Bicycle"

—Bumper sticker

And does that make her any less of a fish?
Precocious Pisces, she pops wheelies,
pedals hell-for-leather just to feel the current

in her scales, skids to a halt with a cloud
of sand and shattered shells. 
Of course she gets along swimmingly without one.

But she's a sucker for chrome, for the plankton streamers
that define her wake, the little bell that rings
bubbles.  She's her own angel with a queen of hearts

in her spokes, the kind who displaces her own trail
while her classmates, flinching at every glint,
become a handkerchief of fear pinched out of the sky

by a murky magician's deft fingers.  Not her. 
She cuts class to troll the secret place beyond the reeds
for sand dollars to put in her white wicker basket

and ponder by which goddess or god
of the shimmering, domed sky they were placed
so that she would be the one to find them.

  
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