Ornithology

Gone to seed, ailanthus, the poverty
tree. Take a phrase, then
fracture it, the pods' gaudy nectarine shades
ripening to parrots taking flight, all crest
and tail feathers.
A musical idea.
Macaws
scarlet and violet,
tangerine as a song
the hue of sunset where my street becomes water

and down shore this phantom city skyline's
mere hazy silhouette. The alto's
liquid geometry weaves a way of thinking,
a way of breaking
synchronistic
through time
so the girl
on the comer
has the bones of my face,
the old photos, beneath the Kansas City hat,

black fedora lifting hair off my neck
cooling the sweat of a night-long tidal
pull from bar to bar the night we went
to find Bird's grave. Eric's chartreuse
perfume. That
poured-on dress
I lived days

and nights inside,
made love
and slept in, a mesh and slur of zipper

down the back. Women smoked the boulevards
with gardenias after-hours, asphalt shower-
slick, ozone charging air with sixteenth
notes, that endless convertible ride to find
the grave
whose sleep and melody
wept neglect
enough to torch us
for a while
through snare-sweep of broom on pavement,

the rumpled musk of lover's sheets, charred
cornices topping crosstown gutted buildings.
Torches us still—cat screech, matte blue steel
of pistol stroked across the victim's cheek
where fleet shoes
jazz this dark
and peeling
block, that one.
Vine Street, Olive.
We had the music, but not the pyrotechnics—

rhinestone straps lashing my shoes, heels sinking
through earth and Eric in casual drag,
mocha cheekbones rouged, that flawless
plummy mouth. A style for moving,
heel tap and
lighter flick,
lion moan
of buses pulling away
through the static
brilliant fizz of taffeta on nyloned thighs.

Light mist, etherous, rinsed our faces
and what happens when
you touch a finger to the cold stone
that jazz and death played
down to?
Phrases.
Take it all
and break forever—
a man
with gleaming sax, an open sill in summertime,

and the fire-escape's iron zigzag tumbles
crazy notes to a girl cooling her knees,
wearing one of those dresses no one wears
anymore, darts and spaghetti straps, glitzy
fabrics foaming
an iron bedstead.
The horn's
alarm, then fluid brass chromatics.
Extravagant
ailanthus, the courtyard's poverty tree is spike
and wing, slate-blue
mourning dove,
sudden cardinal flame.

If you don't live it, it won't come out your horn.

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