I was only in jail once, then for four hours, no charges and my biggest fear was that my parents would find out, or the cops would determine that I was only 17 and breaking the park curfew was not even a misdemeanor.
They let me go, gave me a ride back to the park, told me not to go in but I wouldn’t at 2 A.M. I assured them, I’d go home and get some slee before reporting to the University for my summer research position.
All these years later I wonder if that was possibly the cell that Joe Hill occupied once, or just what other manner of criminal I might have shared space with, hopefully someone not merely charged with violating park curfew.
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
He would be the first to admit that he hated most things avant-garde particularly when it applied to either art or music. It was simply a matter of being in the moment, and he knew you could not be ahead of time for there was only the moment in which you were in.
It wasn’t until I hit middle age, which on my scale will allow me to live past 100, that I discovered that cats are Celtic deep in their hearts. Our cat, she who adopted me and forced her then owner to marry me, like it or not, was in love with the tin whistle and the uilleann pipes playing had her in my lap, unmoving. But she had her Buddhist side as well, sitting zazen for hours, longer if accompanied by shakuhachi flutes. She said that cats were discerning, were connoisseurs of music loved cello, viola and violin but barely tolerated the bass. It was why, she said, all the great composers wrote for the higher strings. And, she would add, as for dogs, well they loved country music most, reason enough for pity.
It’s jazz, it’s a club, but there what once was is no more, there are no ashtrays on the table, overflowing early into the second set, no cloud of cigarette smoke descending from the too dark ceiling. There is no recognizable odor of a freshly lit Gaulloise, in the trembling fingers of a young man trying to look cool, trying not to cough on each inhalation, in the calm fingers of a young woman who you know speaks the fluent French of her homeland. It is none of those things but it is jazz, it is a club and in this city, now, it must suffice.
He says he has always hated classical music, and would rather listen to nails dragged across a chalkboard. He has been out of school for many years so I suspect he no longer realizes what nails on a chalkboard really sounds like, how even opera, which I can’t tolerate, would be preferable. He rattles off a list of composers he despises, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, and on and on the list goes, and I have to conclude his distaste for the music is sincere and deep. Still I ask if there is nothing he will accept, if not like, but which will fall short of detest. He pauses a minute in thought, then smiles, and says he does have two guilty pleasures. He admits he will listen to classical music, but only as Beethoven did after he went deaf in 1816, or failing that, he’d welcome John Cage’s 4:33.
It is hard, looking back, to recall just how many hours I spent searching with a fair amount of diligence for just the right song to express my love. Most often I would find it, but only after that love had been replaced by another, demanding a new song — you cannot use the same song for two different loves, that crosses well over into tacky. I have to admit I’ve given up totally on that quest, even as the number of available songs has grown exponentially, or so the various streaming services suggest. I have only a single lover now, have for twenty years, and as her hearing has slipped away it is her lips that read mine, and that is all the song we need.
They brought him myrrh on a flaming salver and all he could do was say “This is something I would expect from a butcher or a carpenter, and the camera angles would never work, so bring me napalm or punji stakes that we have proven to work.” They brought him ripe oranges and the sweet meat of the pineapple, its juice dripping from his chin, and all he could do was tighten his grip on the AK-47 and dream of night on the edge of the jungle. They brought him Rodin, Matisse, Rembrant van Rijn, and Blake, but all he would see was Bosch and Goya, and then only by the light of fading candles. They brought him the String Quartet in A Major played on Strads and Guarnaris, but he wanted the retort of the howitzer the crump of the mortar, the screams of the child. They brought him his child wrapped in bandages missing fingers and toes, and all he wanted was the nursery, a newborn in swaddling, suckling her breast as he stroked her head and remembered the moment of her creation.
First published in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press (2008)