blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1


PIVOT POINTS  |  Gregory Donovan

Breathing in the Cool

John Coltrane there on the edge
of the red morning, leaning on the sill
of the open window, breathing in the cool
wind that poured over his shoulders—
the air bringing on something rare,
complex, tasting of smoke
and pepper—as the song made itself
ready in him. He fingered the instrument
sleeping in his hands, the pads popped,
the keys clacked, until the song grew taut
and restless, until it had to be let go.

He followed it on. The song turned
down an alley, it slipped downstairs,
laid on its back and wouldn't move,
had a devil of a time in there getting
out, but it crawled back up, got to its feet
in the middle of the street. Then it went
strutting downtown, just looking
for trouble, it was going wherever
the hell it had to go. It rolled
on like the mighty thunder. Deep
into it, in the heart of its fog,
there where nothing can be held down
or numbered or stolen, where nothing
can be salvaged or hauled back, there,
where there may be the perfect
emptiness at the center of creation,
in that depth he found a spirit, hovering
right there with him in the room.

It was a lemon colored light,
and now it began to dance, to slowly
               It was like water,
the clear flower splashing back into itself
after the stone.

It was like a tree feeling out
to know its every possible limb.

It was like death—someone else's death—
at the moment you hear of it, and know
that very death will be your own.

It was like the mother of all knowing,
like everything you know and forget
until the song plays it out again.

It lived at the edge of invention
and it meant to go on and on.
He believed it meant to kill him.
What in the world did it want?

It wanted elegance.

That was all, and it was all
that could save him, it was all
that could take him up.

When the song finished, the light
gathered itself. It flew into the bell
of the horn and vanished
into the mouth and throat
of John Coltrane where it lived on,
making it back through song after song,
coming back to kill him another time.


 Breathing in the Cool
   Belle Isle
   Isla Bella

   Notes and Acknowledgments
   Levis Reading Loop