Heavy boots brought me to the jazz club

by Emanuel K Parker


For three months, I'd had heavy boots.

heavy boots brought me to school where they'd drag though the halls.
heavy boots held me home on the weekends anchored to my bed.
heavy boots drew awkward glances from friends turned strangers,
and awkward hugs from strangers turned friends.

At home, heavy boots would sink through the floor at
the sound of tears behind doors, 
the sight of weeks dead flowers backed by hallmark cards,
silent dinners—anguish at the incomplete table.

heavy boots brought me on long walks at night,
they brought me to the chapel for stare offs with plastic Jesus,
and to a shrink who'd tell me about his late wife—
hoping I'd share in his vulnerability.

But my boots stayed heavy.

One night, heavy boots brought me to the jazz club.

At Jazz at the Bistro 
the warmth of bodies and
the hum of murmurs bid
me to take off my boots,
tuck them under my seat.

And the Sean Jones Quartet took the stage.

a bebop, a ballad, some swing, some blues
plates clinking, foots tapping, some jokes to amuse

the beating of the bass
sweat dripping down his face

a snare roll fill
a trumpet trill

hollers and heys on top of rousing hues
twisting in flares inspired by the muse
and the applause.

a breath.

some words before the last piece.
And with them—Sean turned me still in my boots,
and somber as I'd forgotten to be.

He put his horn to his face and
glowing in black and in blue he
took his stand in heavy boots

from BJ's Tune flowed the first line.
which he has written for his brother,
who is dead—just like mine.

Sean's trumpet sang smooth and sentimental: 
stick fights and ding dong ditching

Summer days under the Missouri sun,
sticky faces and watermelon rinds,
waxing philosophical about Star Wars and sixth grade.

Your stubbornness, your laughter, your uncombable hair.
The wrestler, the politician, the all knowing air. 

As the music swelled Sean's tone turned course
          The fights, the tears, the scars, and worse—as if
          Santa coming twice makes up for divorce.

          Your confusion and your darkness
          Your pain standing in heavy heat

          She was the whole world—
          That lying whoring little cheat

          I'm sorry the heartbreak was too much to bear
          that you were lost and alone without your future wife
          I'm sure that you wouldn't believe the screams
          the night you took your life.
a trumpet shriek
through the storm of
frantic piano chords and
cymbal thunder

          I went to that place 
          where blood stained
          his on hers and
          hers on mine
          which trembled in fury
          in that place
          which was cold

and then silence

In a moment the violence ceased
and in its ringing wake stood Sean,
his horn held to a tear streaked face.

Eyes closed, a sniffle, a shaky inhale—
as if grasping the hand of BJ's corpse

With the band standing still,
the club held its breath, as
Sean played the perfect fourth:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see

Alone again in cold night air
I kept close the warmth of the club

I took the weight from my boots,
held it in the palm of my hand.

Turning it over and over
I saw it wholly—for the first time
and it was holy—for the first time

With moonlight on my face,
baptized in misty midnight sky.
strength flowed from grace.
heavy boots lifted high.


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