We’re examining Robert Hass‘s poem, The Seventh Night, for #walkmyworld this week. I was not familiar with the poem (actually, I was not familiar with any of his poems) so I dove into it cold. We’re using Poetry Genius to annotate the poem, if you want to come along. As I listened to Hass, and read the poem, I realized that the playful bantering reminded me of “trading fours” in jazz, where soloists exchange melodies back and forth. Sort of like a poetry slam, with music.
That led to me writing this prose poem this morning:
Trading Fours on the Seventh Night
(hat nod to Robert Hass)
The bar fell silent, watching. All eyes staring. They locked gaze together, swaying in time to the beat of the drums and the bass pounding out on the wood floor beneath their feet so that every thump traveled up their spines, every pluck of the fat string by fat fingers reached into the base of the neck. The pianist tickled out the faint melody of a tune. The stage was set. She raised up her horn. Started to call him out. Eyes closed, dancing with the muse. He admired the way her fingers flew over the keys, the bell of the trumpet suddenly alive with faint echoes of Armstrong and Morgan and Gillespie, before setting down into the cool of Baker as if someone had poured the room a scotch, neat, unhurried. He angled his mind then, catching one of her melodies in his ear and leaping in with it, knowing that once the first note was out, it would be instinct alone and nothing else to guide him. He folded himself up in her song as she watched him, smiling at the way Young and Rollins and Getz uncurled in syncopation, first from the reed in his mouthpiece, then from the caress of keys, then from the open bell on the roof of the saxophone where, finally, at last, Hawkins rolled out to take a drink with them, too. She poured that glass herself with an old line from Davis, sliding the whiskey back across the stage, where he added the ice with Coltrane. As if. And so it went, into the night with not a word spoken between them as they bantered about with metaphors rooted in the past yet slinking towards some symmetry neither one could understand nor comprehend, inventing a language all of their own on this Sunday night, this seventh night, this day of rest. Even after the crowd got antsy. Even after the band got tired. Even after the owner got so fed up that he yelled at them to stop, for God’s sake, just stop. Even after they had begun packing their horns away, there they stood, he and she trading fours until the owner turned off the lights and everyone went home but them.
Peace (on the imaginary stage),