Deep in a small forest, a murmuring brook reflects the shards of sun sliding through the crown of pines, its whispered wisdom infinitely more clear than the babbling of men holding the reins firmly in distant cities of power.
The birds know this well, sing of it in chorus, nature’s music, jazz scatting that the graying clouds absorb, an always willing audience, and the wind rushing by cries through the trees in the voice of long dead poets whose words offer a truth to which cloistered talking heads have grown deaf.
First published in Pages Penned in Pandemic , 2021
The melody arose from the most unexpected place. They heard it deep within the woods and even the birds fell silent peering around, searching for its unrevealed source. It carried on for several verses and then, as quickly as it came it was gone, the final note carried off by a spring wind. No one entered, no one left the woods that day and though many searched no instrument was found and the trees of the woods grew silent at the searchers’ approach.
He liked nothing better then to sit outside his small cottage and stare into the pond once the blaze on the water set by the sun was consumed as fire must always be by water. As night deepened, he stared into the sky, seeing the moon slowly rise, chasing along the sun’s now deserted path. He knew the myriad of stars shared his interest, staring but he abandoned the sky as the sun had yet again, and watched as the voracious pond slowly consumed the ever fewer stars, and saw the pond’s moon take up its liquid dance to the tune of the night breeze
I admit I am an odd duck, odder for not being a duck at all. But the expression has a certain je ne sais quoi to it, as does that expression and I am all about language. All that is a long round about way of acknowledging that I have always wanted to use the word antiphonal in my writing. I’m not terribly religious, and what faith I had has long been shaken by a world gone mad. Or at least a country gone mad. And even when I had some faith, I subscribed to the syllogism that religions music was to music, as military food was to food. We won’t even mention military music, that is an abject oxymoron.
After years of going to live jazz I’ve honed my skills to a fine level. I still know next to nothing about the intricacies of the music, five years of classical piano and I barely understand Bach and Mozart.
But I know where to look, who bears watching in the combo, and it isn’t the trumpeter, he with his ballooning cheeks, some clownish bellows, or the bassist always striving hard to develop scoliosis, the sax player with the rubber spine swaying.
I watch the percussionists, piano and drums, careening from sadness to joy and hitting a glissando of emotions, the pianist staring at the keys, lecturing them on expectations for us well met, for her falling short, and the music slides into the background of life in the process of being lived.
I sing a shattered song of someone else’s youth the melody forgotten the words faded into odd syllables heard in my dreams. The coyote stands at the edge of a gully staring at me and wondering why I slip from the hogan through the hole punched in the back wall slinking away in the encroaching dark. The priest, his saffron robes pulled tight around his legs in the morning chill, stares as I run my hands across the giant brass bell feeling its resonance. I hear the dirge as sleep nips at the edge of my consciousness grabbing the frayed margins of life
Bob Dylan is, to the best of my knowledge, the only songwriter to successfully rhyme outrageous and contagious, which doesn’t explain why I knew I could never be a successful songwriter in this life.
The explanation is far simpler, it was when Leonard Cohen served me tea and apricots, said he hated the river even living in Montreal and said I should pack off to Florida or California if I wanted oranges, though he said, if I ever visited China, if I’d see where their oranges came from.
We’re all older now, Leonard is dead and even Bob admits he’s not sure he’s younger now, but he says, Bob that is, that I need to get over keeping up with the Joneses, because in the final analysis, we are all Jones at the end.