No Eyes: Lester Young
by David Meltzer
Santa Rosa, Black Sparrow Press, 2000.
200 copies, 181pp.
A "Haiku" for Meltzer in the Manner of His "Sonnets"
What's it been old friend?
Thirty-eight, thirty-nine, forty years maybe.
It started appropriately with birth
the birth of your daughters, our son,
The Book of Birth sent by you to us
at the urging of mutual friend Hirschman
and soon after that you came to read in Isla Vista
with Jack striding down the aisle in the midst of it
shouting, "David, David," celebrating your presence
and then the whole gang of us proceeding
to The Timberlands (still there) for steak dinners
none of us could afford
and the conversation began.
We started with the meat, the steak, the potatoes
but soon moved on to children, family, lovers
(past, present, & possible), the joys & difficulties of it all.
Thence to being jewish and not being jewish
again the joys & difficulties and the possibilities,
kabbalah, gemara, midrash, the messiah (real & false).
And poetry, of course poetry, always poetry, the words
yours, mine, others & the stories (apocryphal, true, maybe)
that inform them & keep us interested
(Old Dr. Williams confessing his infidelities
on what he thought was his death bed but recovering
and paying for it for the rest of his life but
penning some of his best work in the process.)
Books on the table, in the backpack, on the shelves,
in the mind, to be read, written, picked apart, created,
bought, sold, traded, collected, the madness, obsessiveness
to the point that the world outside was blocked
by the volumes inside blocking all the windows.
Sexuality, sensuality, sacred & profane,
a little of each to keep it interesting
erotica/pornography depending on the mood
to pick you up or slam you down.
The news, the gossip, the bad jokes:
(D'ya hear about the dyslexic rabbi who
at the end of a rough day exclaimed "Yo!")
Jazz, blues, classical, country, folk, klezmer,
genres that didn't, still don't have a name.
First the obvious and swinging into folks
I'd never heard or even heard of,
now a vital part of my soundscape,
your mind like an unwritten encyclopedia.
You knew them all, even the ones who never existed,
like Blind Orange Adams who was born & died
only in the pages of Downbeat.
Fame & fortune, its presence, absence & fickleness
the humble & not so humble hustle
the appreciations, the jealousies, the randomness, the gratitude
"there but for the grace of ..." on both ends of the rope.
Almost always over food & drink,
more drink than food but we had to eat
or at least make a pretense of it
vast quantities of wine & sake consumed
and the precision-like maneuvers we somehow
came up with to get us safely home.
Heartbreak, heartache, romance, death, loss,
the reason for it all, the soul
"it always comes round to the soul."
In these last years our bodies
such a large part of it
how to deal with them, nourish them,
keep them alive, the pain & courage
that accompanies the attempt
and back again
to the word
and each time I would take it or even try to
take it to a level you deemed too pompous
or serious or maudlin or hopeless or just plain dull
you'd, without fail, look up with that
sparkle in your voice and begin to sing:
"There's no business like show business
there's no business I know ..."
and properly chastised by the wisdom in the air
we'd begin all over again.
Amen, brother, amen.
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