They trade licks like compliments
and the horns are scurrying
to keep up, like one family
scrambling to pay the suddenly-raised rent.
Max catches on and tumbles
a charging rhinoceros’s heartbeat
into the mix.
Everyone is seriously playing
when Ed Manion’s fingers
climb up the neck of his sax
as if they were the four limbs
of some musical King Kong
ascending the Empire State Building
where it will finally mount
and scream out to the dark city below.
And just as I think this room
can’t get any more sound in it,
Mark Pender loads his trumpet
with air and fires a buckshot of notes.
Everyone around me gets hit
and becomes more alive.
And recessed from the proscenium,
there’s Mike Spengler, his hair
slicked back like Dracula’s
his trumpet sucking all the blood
from the guitars and turning it
into good cholesterol.
Then Jerry Vivino juts forth
his saxophone like he’s got a first crush
and it’s on this audience
and he’s offering a brass petunia,
its reedy stem full of carpe diem
blooming into life
in this greenhouse of sound—
just a ramshackle theatre
on the edge of a city of ruins
near an ocean that is constantly losing
its tug-of-war with the immovable land
but the water never gives up—
and La Bamba gets it because
his trombone starts flicking out
like Sugar Ray Robinson’s jab—
a pounding and an exaltation at once—
knocking at despair, at desperation—
and we audience—we start clapping
on the beat, and Max smiles
like we’re actually patting his back,
not his music,
and we want to do this
the way one wants to reach out
and touch the Liberty Bell across its partition—
we slam our palms together
as if capturing aural fireflies
to bring home
because no one else can remember this
unless they were here.
We want evidence.
We keep clapping the air in front of us.