The People Want to Sing

The people are leading now,

with their voices,

They don’t needed to be steered,

forcibly guided by instrumentation.

I set my guitar down and sing with them,
the sensation is like setting my bare feet

in a cool stream,

I can feel my soul revived,
flowing downward for miles and miles

Until we finally meet the sea,
become one, evaporate

and ascend into the heavens
to sing once more.

Just the Beginning

I love that jazz does not need to resolve itself,

because, although the overarching story of our lives,

may have a beginning, middle, and end

the rest of it often doesn’t.

It bleeds into itself, informs itself

takes detours and goes unexpected ways.

Our lives are like that,

the seasons come and go erratically

and that’s okay.

We let the waves come and go as they will,

venturing forth into the unknown

until at last we find the end,

which of course only just the beginning.

Just Jazz

He had always been a tall man. Walked tall, lived tall. People asked him if he played in the NBA, but he hated the sport. Pass the ball, run. Pass the ball, run. On and on. Always predictable. Jazz was never predictable. It was always raw and alive. So he chose jazz.

He played trumpet alongside the best of ‘em, moving from smoke-drenched dives to glitzy ball rooms, always wearing his favorite silver bowtie. A good luck charm of sorts. He was meant for this. It suited him well.

Then, death came, like a dark tide, sweeping away his favorite players. Overdose. Cocaine. Everyone riding A-train into the netherworlds. He got on board too, found himself in the emergency room, two shakes away from death.

But he didn’t die. It was the bow tie, he told himself. Or something.

He left the scene, stepped away. Started working on engines with his brother.

Then, he got the call. An old buddy was getting married, wanted him to play. He said he was out, but his friend was very insistent. He did miss the scene.

So he showed. He played the gig. The kids beside him idolized him. He didn’t care. He’d been here before. The music was all that mattered, and the music felt good.

Across the way was the bar. He wanted a drink. To calm his nerves, he told himself, but he wanted more, much more. He wanted back.

He walked up to the counter. The bartender greeted him.

“Can I get you anything?” she said.

He paused.

“I’m just taking a break,” he said.

She paused.

“Water?” she said. “It’s a hot day.”

He nodded.

She kneeled down, grabbed a bottle, and shot up again.

She wobbled.

“Oh wow, I stood up too fast,” she said.

“All for nothing,” he said, and took the bottle. “Thanks.”

He drank enough to wet his lips and returned to his horn.

He played and played until everything was gone, until it was just him and the music. No death, no drama, just jazz.

Just Another Day

“Play me a song,” he said, seeing us leave the restaurant with our guitars.

“We don’t have the chords,” M said.

“Play it anyway,” he replied.

And so we started, roughly. The chords came, but the words didn’t. The words came, but the chords didn’t. Eventually, both aligned. Then, we sang together the songs that stuck with us, the ones deep down. Always a surprise to see what sticks.

“Play ‘Jesus Loves Me,'” he said.

And we did. The simple, fleeting words resounded through the parking lot and into the night sky.

Soon, we were all out of songs. They thanked us. His buddy, he told me stories about Vietnam while the others mused over M’s dreadlocks.

“My leg’s all tore up. Not a leg no more,” the veteran said, “Got two purple hearts out of it, though. I have trouble sleeping sometimes. All times. God forgive me.”

And he wiped his face with a dirty napkin.

I ran into the car and pulled out the McDonalds napkins I had stored there, you know, for emergencies.

“Here,” I said.

“Thanks,” he said while using the napkin, “for listening.”

M nodded me forward and we walked together to the nearest convenience store, picking up hot dogs and beer for the guys.

“Do you have a Bible?” said the first guy. I handed him mine, “what’s the shortest verse in the Bible?”

“‘Jesus wept,'” I said.

“And where is it?” he said, “What verse?”

I told him I didn’t know. he flipped right to it.

“Saint John eleven thirty-five,” he said.

 

I nodded in amazement.

We all hugged. M and I went to our respective way.

“I’m glad you didn’t die,” M’s girlfriend told her, later.

For us, it’s just another day.