The Sequoia Music Saga
A poem without music, an image without music. a novel about music.
No Wind Mind
The snow storm hits as I walk to the market.
All day reading a novel set in the south seas
has blinded me to New England in winter.
I'm befuddled by sleet in the face. A jacket
is an ill-advised choice for blizzard wear.
The next door I see is a church. Unlocked.
The lights flicker and die, but five candles
twinkle before a rank of two dozen pews.
The snow and wind are behind me, but I'm
more than alone. Unless god shows up.
I take off the jacket. I sit a few minutes.
I open a small book I see before me. Prayers.
I don't need prayers, I need weather reports.
I open it. On the title page written in pencil:
Faith is not always available—or important.
The best prayer is a prayer for nothing at all.
I smile. Nothingness. I get it. Zen Christian.
Tiredness is my nothingness. I lie on the seat.
My eyes open to electric light. I'm dry, warm.
I sit up. A wool blanket slides off my shoulder.
I fold the blanket and leave it on the pew.
I light a candle and walk home.
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Art by Anne Abrams
Cantab Tango Novel Excerpt of the week:
In a jacket and tie Satchmo Jones seems smaller—shorter and somehow poorer than yesterday, as if he's trying too hard to look the starving artist. But we're all trying too hard: Tony plays the part of a white show-biz producer in disguise—and he nails that one with his business plan and contracts in hand and one freaked-out face. I act like a white rock musician who's lousy at laundry—and I nail it. The parole officer leans back in his chair and looks hard at each of us as if we were in a police line-up. He shakes his head as if to reject us, but all this play-acting means little because he takes our personal information and then signs and stamps the release papers without reading Tony's business plan or the contracts.
Tony looks disappointed for a few seconds but a win is a win. The officer must think it's a bullshit charge like we do because he smoked pot when he was a kid. Or perhaps he's overwhelmed with a bullshit-sized caseload because of pot being illegal for so long. Or maybe Satchmo's case is bullshit and he knew it. Maybe our Grand Mockery Group is not such a bad rap. The officer requires Satchmo to call him twice a month—that's the whole pot of penance.
Yay from Satchmo and me but Tony looks subdued because he didn't sign the advertising client he hoped would pay for this trip to New York. Tony always plays the pessimist, because he has to. Pessimism helps him make the right decisions for us—I know that now. But I've got to remind him that we have a signed artist who could kiss the musical sky for us someday—that should cheer him up.
Back on the street we look like over-dressed ex-cons—I've never felt so proud—or so ridiculous—it's our own A Hard Days Night movie.
Satchmo rides the train back to Cambridge with us. He wears headphones and a felt bowler tipped sideways as he rides the window seat and aims its brim at a new world arriving by rail—not by mean streets, but by the kindness of trees. He seems taller, richer, and full of energy now. I still feel ridiculous, but also a little proud—we've saved a talented musician from the evil clutches of the Evil Yankee Empire. I'll have to remember to buy him a Red Sox cap (I'm sure Tony has written it into his contract).
I'm also glad for Tony's recent cleaning blitzkrieg of my apartment. It's great to pretend I'm always this together. Because I now have this ex-con for a housemate—a fastidious ex-con—yay. Maybe he's good at laundry—yay. Maybe we need to write an actual great song together instead? Yes.
Is he full of that possibility? He better be. Am I? We better be.
My biggest concern is Satchmo and Tony—really—how will they ever get along? Sure, Tony's a controlling boss—most are. But we've never talked about Tony being gay. Will that be a problem for Satchmo? “Fuck it out,” he once told us. Is that a homophobic slur or not? It better not be.
What about my own weird situation with my one ghost girlfriend and my one international runaway girlfriend? But then I remember how my own feelings about sex had crashed from its normal orbit onto some unknown planet. Who knows where that's going? Don't ask because I've stopped hoping.
I don't care either way about old girlfriends—but Satch gives me strange looks. I remember when we were writing the last verse for Daddy Do in the middle of the night he once said: “I do wonder what's up with you, Jack—why are you so deep in your own closet that you can't sing the real truth out of yourself?”
I couldn't answer it then. And I still don't know what the hell he meant. My closet? I don't know anything about my future beyond new guitar strings and my next meal. We each have so much to learn about each other, and things to work out between us, that it scares me. Will we end up as enemies or friends? Will he be a younger version of Tony or will he be a male version of Carrie, my ghosting ex-girlfriend? Will Cambridge be our foxhole or our dance floor or our grave?
I pull an old notebook out of my backpack and open to a page. I read.
“In Case of Permanent Pizza Blues.
“What else can I do? My fingers won't bend strings anymore. Guitar saved me when I was a young punk, but not now. Writing a sad song to save a broken heart only works in Nashville. Now she's gone my fingers have nothing to say—their lips stopped moving when she dragged her skin away, ha, ha. Maybe I will die—but I won't die hungry—not yet. I'll die drowning in flavors. Hello, Friendly Pizza, deliver me flavors, kill me with pie. Send me a tomato heart attack with extra cheese—toast crunch my mozzarella. Send me heroin for sissies.”