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from IN THE SMOKE A DRUMMER BLEW



GARY WINDOíS BOOTS

Late February
and in upstate New York
the tourís over.
Heís thinking, mostly,
of the flight home,
whatís been done,
whatís to come.
Kicking snow from his boots
he sees her through the glass,
inside, at the piano,
cradling chords, waiting
as he unpacks his sax.
They share brandy and laughter,
knowing each otherís moves,
each otherís thoughts.
She anchors him
as he projects
a warmth of memory
recalling across continents
moments of brotherhood,
each breath precious
fluttering affirmations
of tenderness and joy.
Later, through thickening
light and snow,
sheíll wave his departure,
footprints becoming
less and less distinct.






ALL NIGHT LONG
           (for Mike Osborne)

In this soldiersí town
he is between lives,
a halfway house
a far cry from Frith Street.
He practises, solo,
when heís allowed
or until the man
in the next room curses,
turns up the radio.
Some days he remembers,
vaguely, how he got here,
remembers clearly
all-nighters at a place
on Hammersmith Broadway,
The Phoenix, The Regency,
Stockwell, Stoke Newington.
And one night opposite Ornette.
He canít recall a tour bus
on the road to Willisau,
that last time.
Now in this violent town
cradling his alto,
moistening a new, softer reed,
he whispers into it,
squeaking a little.
Itís late
but he has all night.





BUT NOT FOR ME (FIRST TAKE)

Off the stand he relaxes
watching a long girl,
blond in the smoke
a drummer blew,

knows the change
in his suit wonít stretch
to whatever sheís raising,
cool, to elegant lips.

Heís seen this so many times:
Paris, Stockholm, New York,
details of faces, a past,
often uncertain as a promise,

endless re-workings of songs
so familiar he wonders if
all possible meaning
has been wrung out.

He feels the tenorís weight,
no weight at all,
turns toward that space
where she no longer is.





IN HIS GOOD TIME
           i.m. Chris McGregor

In no hurry,
he walks to where
the horse which
no one can tame
shifts beneath
a spreading tree.

The day has been
full of songs
his father taught him,
and the music of a young boy
whose trumpet caught
and held the sun.

In the kerk voices
offer themselves to heaven
as he leads the horse
through kikuyu grass,
mounts, knowing
where he wants to go.





COLTRANE AT THE GUGGENHEIM, 1960           
           (from a photograph by William Claxton)

From here
itís easy to see
whatís behind.

Heís entering
that rare moment
when itís possible

to focus, not on
details, distractions,
all thatís gone before.

From here
heís looking forward
into clear space

his vision steady
confronting
what must be done.





THE SECOND TIME AROUND

In this adopted city
heís at ease, jail
and the habit are history.
He can smile now
at those who said
he was finished, or worse,
working low rent motels,
cabaret for third rate romance.
He takes walks by the river,
raises his hat to ladies
who promenade poodles.
Crossing bridges
he watches the young
who are just beginning.
The words to every song
heís ever played
keep coming back
with such clarity.
Tonight on the stand
heíll give them body and soul,
April, Paris, fond and foolish things.





AUTUMN LEAVES
           i.m. Tal Farlow

Itís January Ď55
and the reels are rolling

but heís just warming up
lost briefly in another season

each note dizzying its fall
chords crisp with colours

heís shedding purely for himself.


           © Paul Donnelly 2003