Soul Pirates

just after dusk in the shadows they wait

patiently hearing each lonely footstep

some nights they pass so early, to quick

other evenings  so late, nothing scares them away

 

the heartbeats they sense, long before foot fall

deep saddened rasps of tremors and thumps

it is not that song that stirs and awakens

but a mournful soul criying from loss

 

each one’s been touched a different way

lost love or life or unimaginable worse

in the darkness listen each tale they will tell

their design not to choose,  long here not to dwell

 

they see not a face, a color, a gender

the task simply strike while the iron is hot

to sear with indifference, no caring, compassion

to rip out the life before hopes spark returns

 

the painful affliction seems more of the same

just heartache renewed,  each stranded memory

but something is different, now stronger and sharper

near the pit of their stomach a spot now lies dark

 

off and away they’re done in that instant

the unknowing corpse still yet to collapse

the essence that was them snatched between breaths

the beauty that’s left is the pain that is gone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sultry Sound

As part of a writing exercise, I’ve tried to write 2k or 3k words in a short story form working through a simple theme in one sitting.  This is the first one that flowed from start to finish without infuriating me in the middle because I couldn’t decide what step was next.  Through December I am going to try to complete three a week.  Editing is also “on the fly” so typos, grammar, etc. may update as you read. 

The rose photo is, of course, by my sister.  I just thought jazzy sounds and roses went together so well.

 

Maybe it shouldn’t feel like a chore, dragging the cases into the club every night. Maybe he should just stick to one sax instead of needing three to play every set. Where would the fun be in that he thought to himself as he set the stands up on the small stage and scanned the crowd to see what tonight might be like.

Not much it appeared, but it was a Tuesday so really not much to expect. There were nights, not many, when he still missed the steamy, smoke-filled rooms, noisy crowds and wild nights. Tonight would be like any of the other five during a long and tedious work week. In the back of his mind he thought he should change his playlist, do something new, maybe even some of his own work, but that’s not what these crowds wanted to hear. They were here to swill happy hour drinks, light beer and forget the drudgery that was their workday and for some probably their home life as well. The faces had become familiar, they lounged from one bar to another through the same work week together. A nod or a quick wave as he set up was usually the most acknowledgment he got from them. Every once in a while, he’d see a new face or an appreciative smile. He always thought to himself “there’s some poor stiff who is working his miserable day job but he or she really wants to be up here, doing this”. As he looked at his badly, battered cases he wondered if they really understand just what that meant.

He set up the same way, every night. It just seemed to have become a pleasant habit. Place each stand, then set the horns up; soprano, then alto, then tenor. Put the extra reeds on his homemade velcro strap that hung to the side of each stand. There was only one club in town where he need a microphone and even then he was there on Sunday night, half the time it was unnecessary.

Dex, the bar manager came by to say hi. He was a nice kid. Late 20’s, transitioning from the latest love of his life and trying to decide if he should finish school or just find a better job. He always brought a really weak Jack and Coke and set it on the little table at the corner of the stage, it was a nice way to start the evening without worrying about falling of the stage an hour into the set! This was probably his favorite place to play; the crowds were nice, it was as clean as you could expect, all things considered and that glass, well, they never let it get empty.

The night would be three hours of total playing time. That was typical for most of the gigs he was playing lately. Start around six-thirty and end at or near eleven. If the crowd was sparse, a little sooner and on the rare night when they were really enjoying themselves…the doors closed at two.

He liked to joke that his job was really Karaoke with a saxophone. Technology had made it so much better over the years. He still missed playing in a group, but there were so many fewer hassles. Digital didn’t drink too much, get punched by jealous husbands or forget what song was next. It was two more cases he had to carry with him everywhere,  but at the end of the night all the cash…was his.

The group in this club liked the West coast jazz groove, and that was just fine. Lighter and gentler to play,  he always sweated a lot less than when he had to do a Coltrane or Parker set. Some music required more life from you to play. Some, was just a nice balancing act . You gave a little, it gave a little. The god set as he called it, with so many of the classic sax standards and legends required everything you had. There weren’t many calls for that these days. Those were practice standards for those lonely nights at home.

Tonight he’d start with some Getz because that’s what everyone knew.  He could expand the set from there, few of them would care and most wouldn’t know anyway.  He pulled the trusty Paris Tenor from the stand.  She, yeah, all his horns were she’s….that was just the way it was, although he’d never been comfortable giving them names, that seemed a bit creepy.  She was the first professional horn he’d ever bought, many years ago now.  Even back then it had cost him almost five thousand bucks.  Funny, it was the next day that nice young lady from Torrance who he’d been living with up and left without a word; well…it was funny now.    He reached over, punched the switch on the Akai controller and listened as the intro began.

He always liked to start the set with something he enjoyed playing.  Not that each song in the playlist wasn’t a favorite, most were, just not all of them were his favorites.   Desafinado had been around almost as long as he had, and it was just a luscious tune he never tired of playing.  He’d tried with a few songs to change the tempo, the short improv sections but since he was the only one who noticed,  he stuck with what worked.  Most of the songs ran four minutes, it made timing a set much easier.  He could play ten songs and be ready for a break.

There was a strange vibe in the air tonight.  He’d actually noticed it as he was setting up.  It wasn’t bad, it was just….different.  Maybe it was the weather.  It had been unseasonably cool all week and in Southern California,  people and cold went together like whipped cream and dirt.  The crowd looked bigger than usual for a Tuesday, that was ok.  He always left his soprano case at the edge of the stage and that extra forty or fifty bucks at the end of the night was always a welcome sight.  Towards the back there must be an office party group.  They were always the ones who never paid any attention to the music and half the time talked louder than he played.  When that happened the few folks who did like to listen to him play would move down front.  They would continue their conversations as well, but at least they seemed to pretend to enjoy the fact that he was at least there.

Years before the crowds would stand next to the stage and scream at every solo, holler for more and ask him what he was doing there?  He’d scorched the highways playing on the road.  He’d argued, nickel and dimed every agent and producer he could think of to play what he wanted.  But it was the early 70’s,  people wanted disco or you could play studio and backup.  None of that was what he wanted to do, so he quit.  Ventured into the corporate world with his relatively unused college education and found a home with a major electronics firm.  People loved the way he managed and after twenty-five years of a boring, daily grind, he was done.  All that time he had continued to play and practice, but now it was what he wanted to play and when and where he wanted to play it.  Being able to retire at fifty wasn’t so terrible.  His health was still pretty good.  He’d never smoked although he was certain that all the club atmospheres would catch up to him someday.  Good beer and good whiskey were his vices, most of the times in temperate quantities.

There had never been a misses right.  That was a sticking point for most of his friends and his family.  For a long time he lived in denial of the fact that his strict structure and regime probably, no, almost certainly, drove most people crazy.  He’d seen it in the groups he’d played with and while he’d been no stranger to love,  there had only been one woman who had appreciated him completely, and he’d been too stupid or stubborn, or probably both to snatch her up before she got away.   Had that really been twenty years ago?  As he worked his way into the next song his mind drifted to her face, her laugh, it seemed like only yesterday.  Those big blue eyes, her “hair of many colors” as she’d liked to call it, even that made him laugh.  To look at her you’d have never know she was an accountant.  That was probably the reason she understand his obsessive behaviors.  She had her shoes arranged by color, the kitchen cabinets had cans sorted by size and category;  they were perfect.

Moving into the next song he tried to push the memories from his mind, what good did this do?  None whatsoever, but why of all nights had he thought of her, here, tonight?

At the back of the room the office party had quieted a little so he didn’t have to play as loud to try to compete.  In each set he would do a ballad or two, sometimes someone would want to dance, mostly they would just stare across the tables at each other in silent conversation.  He liked some of the 80’s songs for that.  They were songs everyone knew.  He could play Dorsey or Miller but most of the time it was wasted on untrained musical palates.  A song jumped into his head just before the scheduled one was ready to start.  He stopped the playback and scanned for it.  It had been a long time since he’d played that song, it had been a long time since he had wanted to.  There it was.  A short and long version.  Yeah, at seven minutes the long version would finish the set and let him get some fresh air.  He reached for the glass on the table and drained it, something he normally didn’t do, it felt right.

From the console he dimmed the lights just a little and began to play.  It’s tough to play while you smile, so he had to fight back the grin as memory after memory flowed out with each note.  Sometimes he would scan the crowd while he played, other times he’d close his eyes as tight as he could and image a different place and time.  Strange right now he wanted to do both.  The song felt so good to play and it sounded good too, he could tell.  Whenever people stopped talking to look while you were playing, that’s a good hook.

They all smiled as he played.  Seems there were a lot of memories floating though the room that night.  Even the group towards the back had stopped and looked towards the stage.  Maybe he should play this song more often.  A few couples got up to dance which was always nice. It made him feel like he was doing more than just performing, he was…performing a service.  Giving them something to enjoy; an experience.  The group at the back seemed to have almost parted as they came a bit closer to the stage,  that was nice, usually he just played, unnoticed.

As he turned towards the center of the stage something caught his eye.  It wasn’t something,  it was someone.  Seeing unusual things in most clubs was by no means a rare occurrence.  Most times they were unusual for everyone, when he looked up and saw those big blue eyes he knew this would only be unusual for him.

He’d played half the song.  Something told him to finish, something told him to stop, something told him things might never be the same again.  He played on.  With each note she moved a step closer to the stage.  He didn’t want to stare, but he couldn’t help it.  Those in her group seemed to sense something a bit peculiar was happening, although from the looks on their faces, most weren’t sure exactly what.   Now it felt as if every note should say her name, every time his hands moved they should be holding her, every time he took a breath, they should do it together.  In all his years the last three plus minutes of that song had to have been the longest of his life.  When it was finally finished he stepped back to the console, pushed stopped, set the Paris in her stand and walked to the stairs at the edge of the stage.

More thoughts raced through his mind in those four steps than he would have ever thought possible.  By the time he made his way to her, standing there at the front of the stage, his brain had turned to pudding.  She was still as stunning as ever, if possible, maybe more so.  He had thought perhaps a handshake would be appropriate but as he reached out she fell into his arms and hugged so tightly he thought she would pass through to the other side.  Everything was so familiar, so wonderful, so perfect.  How could that possibly be, after all this time?  Pleasantly enough neither one seemed to want to let go…that was more than ok.

Wrapped in the cocoon that was their own little world, they didn’t notice the rest of her group begin to slowly work their way towards the back of the room again.  There they stood, together, under the dim stage light as if they were waiting for the music to start for the next dance.

The next thirty minutes flew by in the blink of an eye.  There was just too much history to catch up on.  He was working, dammit!  They had exchanged all the important information, like…neither of them was married, or involved or…anything, and oh, phone numbers too!  She walked him to the edge of the stage as he prepared for his next set, took his hand and kissed him gently on the cheek.  Time…stood still.  She winked before she turned and walked away.  At that point he may have finally taken a breath.

She rejoined her group at the back of the club.  You can always tell when people are talking about you, you just can.  He knew there was something unusual about tonight.  He was glad she was it.

He scoured the playlists for that perfect song, the one that would just be…it.  He didn’t have a lot of time.  He looked to the back of the room.  She stood and blew a gentle kiss as she turned to leave.  He had to find it before she was gone.  He knew he’d see her again, that wasn’t the point.  He needed it to define this night, this moment, the two of them…right now!

Then he saw it.  Of course, it wasn’t West Coast jazz, it wasn’t any of that, but it was the perfect song for this perfect moment.

As he started to play, she turned and stopped in the doorway.  He could see her smile like a spotlight, shining on the stage, shining on him.  There were smiles all around the club as they acknowledged a great song, even the band name could describe what they were to each other until this very moment.   “Waiting for a Girl like you” by Foreigner …yes they had been, yes he had been….not anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Twisted Voice

TwistedDo you wonder if they hear you, said the voice inside my head.

A storm is slowly brewing and their fear will turn to dread

No simple cure or tonic to set this path back right

As daylight fades toward twilight then slowing into night

 

Your words come out too quickly, too harsh to comprehend

The warnings pass between them, could it really be the end

Certainly you couldn’t be a wise and telling sage

The wisdom passed out here today is from a different age

 

A time when all that men knew was gathered with a sword

When evil fled the country-side great deeds they did record

Now passed into another time, a place so far from there

Where despots rule so ruthlessly and none-the-less to care

 

Listen as you here it call, it beckons at you still

Words and phrases bubble forth to iron up your will

To listen to them closely is more than just a choice

The future speaks to many now, with but a twisted voice.

Brothers

Brohters 11_17_2014They knew,  never venture too far from home

The trees keep you safe if you know where to roam

The crunching of leaves and scents in the breeze

But those sounds aren’t yours…up there, in the trees


Movements so slow it can be hard to tell

Perhaps just a bird or some acorns that fell

So many times the fear is so real

Just freeze for a moment, a quick glance they steal


Then quick in a flash the steps draw much closer

Stuck here in this place the chase would be over

Turn quick and then run is all they can do

No glance back behind is the wise thing for you


Bound over the timber and up through the valley

Running and running, go much faster..shall we?

Daring to stop near the top of that hill

To look down below, a figure so still


And then in a moment to charge right back down

Towards a patch of the forest of yellows and brown

She stands in the shadows peaceful and calm

They race back to safety and the one they call mom.

A Step into Goodbye

Cloudy Morning - popsAll the kids called him “Pops”.  I did too.  I had known him all my life, they were just always there.

All of us would sit for hours and listen to his stories of the woods, the mountains and how he loved them, how he felt so attached to them.  You could see it in his eyes as he spoke, such passion, such…yearning?  Every word echoed through the valleys of oak and maple, you could hear the leaves rustle as he talked of every step he took.

As we call him “Pops”, so she had always just been “Ma”, more than likely because that was all we had ever heard him call her.  They were so perfect together.  It seemed almost urban legend now that they were married at 16 years of age, that being the case on this day it would mark their 80 years together!  As kids we didn’t appreciate that stretch of time, but our parents certainly did.  That day, an evening of celebration was on the schedule at the town hall for everyone to celebrate.

The news that day trickled slowly at first like a melting glacier;  by early afternoon it had turned into a torrent of terrible, raging unbelief.

Pops had gone out early that morning to walk his garden as he did everyday.  There she sat, on the porch swing, her head gently tilted to one side, her morning robe arranged neatly beneath softly place fingers.    As he slowly walked towards the porch he had to have known, after all that time, all those years, how could he have not?

They say he just sat there next to her on that swing and held her hand.  When the mail came around shortly before one in the afternoon, the news spread quickly.  Those who had lived close by were the first ones there.  They stood at a distance to just look and perhaps…to say goodbye.

He let go of her hand, that last time when they finally had to take her away…it was just after 3pm.  Those who saw him said there only seemed to be one tear.  He just sat there on that swing with her, quietly, as they shared that last day together.

Every single person was amazed when he showed up that night.  Talk was held to cancel the event, but most felt that would be even worse.  He smiled, he shook all the hands, and he even tried, just a little, to laugh.  They had created wonderful story boards with pictures everyone had brought together.  Friends and family alike had contributed a thousand memories of the two of them.  He stopped and looked at every, single picture.

On the table near the end of the storyboards was a “well-wishers” table.  A large white sheet of paper covered the table for everyone to write something on.  As he got to that table he reached into his jacket pocket and retrieved an obviously old and well-worn envelope.  He gently open it and removed something that no person in that room had seen until that very moment.

Slowly he unfolded the yellow newsprint, being ever so careful to be tender to every fold as he placed it there on that table.  Every eye in that room was riveted to that news-clipping he had laid out before them.

As he pressed it firmly to the table he touched a trembling finger to his lips and placed it gently on the picture of the beautiful young woman in the picture.  There for all to see, dated those 80 years previous was their wedding announcement and a wonderful picture of two young people in love.  There was not a dry eye in the room.

The next morning we were all jolted from our beds by the fire siren that hadn’t been used in no one knew how long.  “Pops was missing” was all anyone and everyone could say.  How could that be?  Where would he go?  Why would he go? No one understood.

As dawn broke every able-bodied soul in town searched high and low for any trace, a message a note…anything.  And just like that;  there it was.  There on the front door of the old city hall building was a pink faded post note.  Written quite clearly and legibly for all to read just one simple phrase:  “I’ve gone home”.

Human nature is a funny thing.  As kids we didn’t understand it then, but the search just sort of stopped…they all just stopped looking.  I couldn’t though, I just couldn’t.   I ran across to the big field that stretched out at the foot of the mountains and stared off towards the treeline, trying to will something, some sign…into existence.

Just as the morning clouds had begun to lift and one ray of morning light filtered down…I saw him.  Strange it seems that I didn’t call out.  This was where he wanted to be.  As he got to the very edge of the forest he slowly turned towards me.  He raised his arm;  as strong and proud as any man one-tenth his age and waved towards me three times.

I could barely see, the tears filled my eyes more quickly then I could wipe them away.  I looked up to see him step into the forest, the sun broke through the last of the clouds and….he was gone.

I still sometimes go back to that spot, there at the edge of the forest.  I think of all the stories, the laughter, the love and I find I am still unable to wipe away all the tears.