(To a friend, disciple of dead white poets, who asked why I only play the music of dead black men)
Mine is no society of dead white men:
You lionize their wizened faces,
their solemn, grizzled whiskers,
homogenized poetic voice.
Give me Thelonious, with his funky hat,
Miles' wild stare, or Coltrane's eyes,
uneasy from meditations
on chord progressions and the godhead.
It is, my friend, an accident (not by
fortune good or bad) our skin is white,
like saliva bubbles on my tenor reed.
I blow a run as best I can, then take a drag.
Smoke evokes a club on Lenox Ave.,
a blue midnight. The city sighs.
Sonny Rollins (if you care to know, he's still alive)
preaches hard bop from a Harlem bridge.
Time is wrong, you say. Wrong place, too.
But wrong race-- White's birthright is to share
in black America's greatest gifts, treasures
dear as any Anglo-sanctioned rite.
Slave ships bore the seeds of jazz,
proclaiming freedom on a tortured soil.
This too is ours. Evil clears like smoke.
Time transforms the night to sweetest blue.
Crushing out my cigarette,
I wet another reed, mount it carefully.
My mouth takes in the saxophone
to blow a run of dreams.