The man who gave up drugs for God
raised a soprano sax, now a ram’s-horn
calling us to confess, now a muezzin’s
summons to prayer, and now a benediction,
flaming in contradiction. His arpeggios
gave way to squawking tones, staccato barks,
praising ugliness/beauty, both as one.
My date nudged me. Why can’t he stand still?
Why so loud? The music drowns the words.
Coltrane stood small, alone, on the huge stage
of a converted movie house on Second Avenue,
and soloed. I heard the past, not his
and not America’s, but the Beginning,
and just as noisy: a sea monster roared,
elephants ran wild, a hawk cried out,
sun and moon raged to be the stronger light.
So that was what it came to, Love Supreme.
He played the present—tones of grit, road kill,
street kill—calling like a gull
as it drops to feed from a cracked shell
then rises up on scarf-like wings and flies.
Silence. The solo over, my date grumbled,
Squeaks, screams, those manic wails, and razz.
He left. I shrugged, and stayed for the long flight.