Monday, July 6, 2015

Stroke of Jazz: a riff on Duke Ellington

“a melody so strange and sweet
In this sentimental bliss
You make my paradise complete”—Manny Kurtz

On Saturday nights at the nursing home, stars push through 
your window and I wheel your body, half light
half dark, on a gurney into the shower room. You lift your head 

and I lather the melodic curve of scull 
where you are busy at work improvising on the two halves 
of what it is that makes us whole.

You do not offer a hand.
Instead, I lift the one that once cradled the small of my back 
as we slept, newly-wed and still equally portioned.

With water and soap I recall for your fingers the static 
remnants of texture and harmony belonging to mine. I web our fingers, 
duet, like the song that played when kitchen dances once slowed, 

soap suds sliding off our elbows, dishes forgotten,
and our lips met in a sentimental mood. I kissed you then
and I kiss you now. My index taps braille rhythms,

syncopated signals sent into the midnight network of your deaf palm.
Somewhere the notes tangle up in the conflux of synapse,
wandering chord progressions in unmapped dark matter. These fill 

the space between surviving neural stars. This is the room 
we need, you say. And you believe me when I say 
that your forgotten limbs are a part of you,

as I trace the vacated pathways along your silent arm 
and leg, as I scat a soapy tune in circular motions, conducting notes 
upward where nerves begin to recognize blurred connection 

to the self—to the song. And my hand finds rest 
like a heavenly dream against the soft hollow of your chest. 
The collision of cadence. The melody’s home.

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