Charlie "Bird" Parker, jazz legend, 1920-1955

He could have squeezed the living daylights out of Hell
And so he did     And at his very leisure
His euphoric appetite for bright pain and dulled pleasures—
hip–hopping     be–bopping     jammin'     slammin'
pumping iron and ironic in metaphoric basements
where swinging trumpets blow—was legendary
His valves those brass knuckles of brute sound
opened like delicate testicles (ah… the swell of it)
under the pressure of his well–manicured hand
Sometimes out of hand     But     then     that was Birdland

He lived for… Oh, what he'd give for:
whole notes suspended from jazz–stained ceilings
ripping     renting     warbling     squealing     A yardbird
desperate to fill the uncompromising space
His face     a black hole     where stars exploding
collapsed into fusion     replaced     glass windows
shattered like melting mirrors from the Ice Age
Nineteen was a nice age     The kid had class
His Cherokee in B flat–pure synergy–
(unsurpassed) peeled poems off of every wall
drove a silk fist     with a twist through blood knowledge
stripped down to the quick     Once he heard the call…

no one could keep that horn in its cage

  Dawn and neon merging together echoed
his interpolations     Muted shades of strobing rhythms—
he was a language of collisions—a free fall
of featherless wings     Icarus caught in the wailing gale
the chromatic scale of stark illusion penetrating confusion
soft callused lips cut from the equinox of     tonal
depth and fragile power     The cryptic
and unspoken lodged in his bill—a shuttered
windowsill opening into a symphony     an epiphany
a sunflower smiling wide in the ache of his throat
The dark chords of his vocabulary–stuttering nocturnal-
perched     now     in treetops     pronouncing his return

  Melodies rose up through rampant leaves of     invention
Green summer ferns     potted plants     rotted plants
April in Paris     Bird Gets the Worm     Ornithology (no apologies
Thirty–four years of unearthly episodic breakups     breakdowns
a narcotic intervention gave him pause     but no rest
Melodies rose up through visions of greatness
sketches of     Miles     Monk and Dizzy
burnt bulbs eclipsing     distant strains mixing chaotic
in fresh saxophonic, kaleidoscopic dimension

Pneumonia in half breaths     a heartfelt diminuendo
What was he thinking?     This is it     maybe
This is the moment     this is the tone
this is the one sound I can really bring home
No more hot–lining liner notes for the final crescendo
Play me the sudden death of midnights Baby!
Play me the jazz–beaked Bird     that old deaf fool
Play me that one impossible screech of a cosmic sage
Blue on ebony     arpeggio of dreaming

No one could keep that horn in its cage!

And in one hush of morning     Destiny brushed
his dry parting lips     his unfettered hips
the suicidal longing of his cold wet drool
The wick of his short flame lit an interval higher
in a sky of blazing burnout—his fame gone cool
That formless ghost of his haunting moan—
his feathers clipped     nothing lost     nothing wanting
His music out the window     his notes off the page

no one could keep that bird in his cage!