Jazz Birds

At the Salem Jazz & Soul Festival
cormorants were sunning on a rowboat just
offshore, wings outstretched,

at least seven repetitions of the signal
Gotham sends in times of trouble.
Each bird had its head turned

to stare at the stage. “Look!”
said my lover, pointing, “Jazz birds!”
And so they’ve been.

I’d like to say there’s some
mystic meaning to this appellation:
how the bird always sits so low

in shifting blue-black diamonds
of ocean is how we sink down
in the ocean of sound. When

the music takes you under
and you forget where you are,
your ears take over for your eyes

and you hear your way over
the shifting landscape of melody,
like a landscape in a dream.

Bass for the dip down, and then
the jazz bird goes nosing through
the pulpy bulbs of swaying seaweed,

as we fall face first into the
frightening fleshy lumps of our
ignored selves, when we fall

through sound, with bliss & fear
we drown. The jazz bird likes
to get down. The bird knows

that underneath the street clothes
of day-to-day surface shine
we will find the food

to sustain us. Jazz birds
come up, too, up through
saxophone’s airy reachings,

to surface in the bright sun.
To sit on the lip of a rowboat
and dry out what’s needed

for flight. The birds stare
at the stage, the boat rolls
in a wake, and they nod,

All right, all right, all right.