Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2016  Vol. 15 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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back T.R. HUMMER


Not in houses, but rooms in cheap hotels
or charity wards: so the great musicians died,
The ones who played jazz or blues. There was one,
it is true, who did it on the sofa of a baroness
In Manhattan, in a penthouse suite no less, but it belonged
to that curious heiress, not to him. Leaking faucets
And ripped carpets were their destiny, wallpaper
so lost it would take an Oscar Wilde to curse it.
It hurts my heart to think of them in the ’50s, singing
each other farewell through dumbwaiters
And moldy air shafts. I walk from room to room,
the travertine floors are cool, I go barefoot
The better to feel them, I sit in a leather chair
in front of an enormous sunny window,
Watching strangers plant a garish yellow sign

beside the walk. I hum “A House is Not a Home.”
I can’t remember the words. I hear Bill Evans play it
on I Will Say Goodbye. 1977: he is riffing cocaine
In the third movement of the longest suicide in history.
It is a worthy thing to sell a house. It is good to throw away
So much repression from garages and attics, right to take
bags of clothes to Goodwill, straightening and lightening the load.
The baroness comes into her parlor. When she left it,
a genius was snoring “Now’s the Time.” And now
The silence in the room is an infinite caesura. She takes
her shoes off to walk respectfully, she pulls the curtains,
Blocking out the oblivious insult of Fifth Avenue
and Central Park, where the homeless
Are dying meaninglessly, their solitary music

evaporating in moonlight, moving no one anywhere.  

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