This poem first appeared in The Antioch Review, Winter 2014 issue.
AROUND MIDNIGHT by Ralph Tejeda Wilson And here I am thinking a thought. I'm thinking & drinking & feeling blue. I'm feeling blue, and it ain't around midnight. It's later than midnight. Darker than midnight. Darker than me feeling blue, than me feeling brown, than me feeling down, than me feeling half-Mexican. And I've been feeling half-Mexican all damn day. I've been working and playing hard and somewhere along the way tore some cartilage requiring some stitching, some hydrocodone & sitting still, and now listening to some jazz and blues: to Coltrane, Miles, Theloni- ous, and poor Chet Baker packed in ice. Meaning them, meaning myself. Who can't heal under the poultice poured from a pure horn? Who can't heal under the weave of Monk's bandaged fingers as they pluck the bones down to the song, to the fret and stammer and stop of the ivory keys God keeps dangling down & down & down. Blues is for keeping, but jazz is for getting up, Mama said at least in dream where I kept it with the coats of many colors and prophecies of uncles that the half-brown boy by way of Anglo-sax would never steer deeper than this steady mud. What'd you'd think the weddo was thinking? All this time steeping myself in the classics: living my lush life straight with no chaser, getting lost among autumn leaves & funny valentines, and drinking in that bitches’ brew (which was not one of my favorite things), until I finally caught the blue train & fell right into a love supreme. Do you drift & get the drift of the play & patter of that fat sweet horn? Do you get the drift under your feet, maybe onto the floor, or figure, if you're a fat cat, the fix laid in of eight balls or teen-agers dancing the dirty cut anyways unto their own sublimes? Meanwhile Miles is climbing & climbing farther & farther out, chasing Bird or bluing dreamily into empty spaces where meaning flowers between the notes & brass begins to melt under the hush of the high-hat & brush brush brush of the lambskin snare soft as a lotus petal where my mind keeps going on toward almond skin and Cupid’s lips & white or brown some swinging hips coming back to me like Buddha or maybe Basho under his banana tree whittling down to seventeen syllables the sentiment meant the same way Miles is breathing each note through the temple bell of his horn. Who can't heal under the poultice poured from a pure horn? Who can't walk out to meet John wading in the river? Meaning Coltrane and/or my love of the contrary inside the coincidental, which is just the kind of shit one says on hydrocodone without a filter, while listening to Coltrane becoming contrary inside the coincidental. That fat sweet horn has got my number: which is three for no other reason than the Biblical & umbilical lack of attention I keep feeling I have not received. A love supreme, a love supreme, a love supreme . . . . And the rhythm of rain falling on the slats of the porch & roof. And now some thunder & the weatherman on muted TV tracking funnels across Alabama, as I lie here in bed, crutches against the wall, a glass of gin on the night table & an endless loop of Coltrane, Miles, Thelonious, and poor Chet Baker packed in ice, meaning them, meaning myself falling down the rabbit hole toward morning. For Jeff Cebulski
Ralph Tejeda Wilson is a Professor of English at Kennesaw State University and a graduate faculty member of the Masters of Arts in Professional Writing program. He was awarded the Georgia Author of the Year Award for Poetry in 2002 for his book, A Black Bridge (University of Nevada Press). He has published work in numerous literary journals.
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