Counterpoint: Domestic Strife and Miles ’64

A flurry of words assaults the ear
as she storms back in the room,
alto voice filling the space
left by the withering blast
of the horn; the false lull breaks

as the drum, relentless, kicks
forward the time, and her growl
bites off the bar viciously,
saying, listen close and learn –
you don’t know my opinion.

No, no, that’s my quick response,
block chords of the piano
trying to fix the segue,
substituting chord after chord,
as the bass beneath pushes

us ahead, red hot and mad,
working the room with anger;
the murderous notes fly wild,
burning away useless charts
as Miles and I turn our backs,

and say, “Never mind.”

The head that began it all
now lost, deliberately,
only tensions and guide tones
suggesting of melody,
her alto pauses and breathes

as the snare drum snaps, alert,
finding the primal level
in our talk, the undertow
where the nothing we share breeds
and lets loose its dark malice.

A conversation, I think,
is not about streams of words
in space from a single voice,
but interplay of accent;
subtle questions in each pause

a spur driving another line,
or emphasis, amplifying
the other’s words, pushing back
perhaps only with a breath
to change rhythm and the tune,

like saying, “So What?”

For the song is not possessed
by one alone; it weaves and moves
from alto to first, trumpet,
then to bass and to the drum,
brass bell, then ivory key,

as moistened reed gives way, back
to the brass, struck on its edge
by wire brush; each one pushing,
working off of each other,
waiting to get the last word.

Now she’s back in the kitchen,
but her solo I block out;
focusing my quiet vamp
’til she sits out a chorus
and I can speak my own phrase

as she turns her back to me,
thinking, like Miles, of control,
giving me a bit of space,
with an irritating cool
that shows she is the leader.

The band says, “We hate that.”

31 JUL 1994, revised 31 OCT 2001

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