Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Buddy's House

Suffice it to say there is more care and honor
Given to serial killers in New Orleans
Than to the inventor of what we know now as Jazz:
Henry Lee Lucas's deeply felt portrait of
George Jones, recipes from Dorothea Puente,
John Wayne Gacy's painted tributes to Indian chiefs --
Their legacy's and letters lovingly preserved ...
Ah but Buddy's house pulls like slave-ship shackles
Around his soul, held in perpetual disrepair,
As proof he was owned, while the city continues
To melt inexorably into the muddy.
He's still here, as he explained when I passed what was
McKenna's Hall, where the music was delivered
Along with amniotic fluid and with blood
But now, he pointed out, a combination
Potter's studio, coin laundry, Voodoo Pharmacy ...
The place is still evil, he added when prompted,
Evil pretending to be good pretending to 
Be evil, this Vieux Carre Southern Museum
Of Slavery, which makes Sinners out to be Saints
And acts crazy to masquerade as innocence,
With a debauchery that's only possible
Among those who've lost the pretense they are free.
What can a lone cornet do in a nest of lies?
The balls hang heavily for Mardi Gras, the time
Of the ritual sacrifice, masking secrets
To hide behind. Only the skeletons can play
Those quadrilles now, where the blood's not yet returned like
Mosquito bites, for only the dead can attempt 
To gain their souls back ... so he went on in this vein,
Remarking on each balcony and colonnade
As a raw beacon of oppression, with the poor
Locals living that role in sauced perpetuity,
For even to blow his horn from the second story 
Required the near selling of his soul, for the more 
In his voice than could ever be allowed. Lonely
To be genius, he simply said, to hear everything
Work together: the hollers, the blues, the martial
Brass, gospel grooves, player-piano pyrotechnics 
As one ... no, the gumbo is a centuries-old dish,
Jazz is a word that came from an L.A. writer,
The truth, he said, is that there cannot be enough
Rhythms that are just not supposed to be there in
Polyvalent syncopation when the shutters
Are all closed, improvisation must live on to
Escape from what embalms, the terrible perfume
Formaldehyde in jars that hangs over the world,
Freeing the spirit to call the children back home
And give them voices, those he could no longer hold,
It was that, and not the poison or what they stole
That made him let it go, the madness in the music,
So that now in every song, no matter how maudlin,
One can hear him glaring the blues with his loud horn
That will never be heard, except as imagined.