He stood alone on the small stage
in front of the dance floor at the club
with his saxophone in hand,
spying hundreds of eyeballs
the reflection of spotlights,
an inspired musical improvisation.
But his sweaty palms keenly conspired
to inhibit his deliverance
as foot soldiers crossed his tongue,
kicking up the sand
in his arid mouth,
clogging the crucial input
of his salivary glands
which craved the cascading fountain
at the rear of the hall.
Frenzied thoughts floated in his head
and instigated a breathlessness
that rebounded rhythmically
off the acoustical tile behind him.
He feared that this hoax
as a soloist and performer
would soon be unveiled.
He dallied with the downbeat
as the audience coughed,
excruciating moments tensed
his trembling fingers.
Then, as if by instinct, he inhaled
a mammoth gasp
that chased away the uncertainty
while his expanding diaphragm
prompted velocity, vibration then sound,
a passionate, soothing sound
that filled the golden horn
as his jumbled spirit ascended off the floor.
There’s not just one, it depends on the style,
the performer and his instrument.
Like the one that’s the favorite
of trumpet players, you know,
the one with the crumpled face
and the pained look of focus
just before he blasts high C.
Every note in the upper range
becomes a new source of agony.
Then there’s the face
of philosophical perplexity,
the one used by trombone players
when they reach higher than they should,
eyebrows lifted against the hairline,
chin extended and tucked into the throat,
usually during a technical lick in numerous positions.
Of course, there’s the sax players
and their ballads, eyelids nearly closed,
head in a languorous droop
that sometimes lolls back
and swivels side to side
to help kick in an arousing vibrato.
And then the drummer
with his classic wild man look,
crazy faced with the fixed grin
and scary stare, like he’s about
to lurch off his seat, unlike
the piano player, the aristocrat
with his proud, confident posture,
convinced that for the next few hours
he and his ensemble own your soul,
how he notices you’ve immersed yourself
in the excitement and emotion of the music,
with your intense squint and locked grin,
that empathetic grimace
especially obvious when your head bobs feverishly
in a contagious yet effusive sign of approval.
Exhale a powerful breath
into its mouthpiece
and the gentle vibrations
upon its reed
create a timbre
through the polished
and under fingers
dull silver keys,
an audible enchantment
begins to spiral
into an array of colors
and transports body and mind
beyond the boundaries
of daily turmoil
to cure the soul of ills
and deliver a message
from the heart.
Barefoot in white slacks
and her husband’s sweater,
she plays the piano most seriously,
bungling Mozart with a grimace
then a grin,
flickered unnoticed upon her fingers.
The field from where her progeny
once thrived has withered,
grown voices and opinions
have fled the confines of the arena
like a tranquilized tiger,
Her foot presses pedals,
fingernails carelessly flit keys,
and in her womb
a musician is conceived.
The house is no longer empty,
half full with sound,
she nourishes herself.
His fingers blur
ebony with silver
as the sweet colors
of a clarion call
pulsate the room
with a staggered step
and the rhythm
gets your body swaying
and fingers tapping
to the incantations
from his black magic wand
like a unicorn’s horn
even the dim lights bop
to the two beat bounce
on the dark dance floor
while the Dixieland man
lost in his world
excites your soul.