June 12, 2006

Beneath the Underdog

Hovering somewhere within the confines of my early memories,
Your name haunted me,
As if it waited on the edge of peripheral vision,
Only noticed in movement.
As if it is a memory before enough words are known to describe it,
As if it is a dream at 4,
Where you wake up,
Then roll over and go back to sleep,
And then at 7 remember that it was a disturbing dream,
But you’re not sure why.

His was a name that I knew,
A music I was drawn to,
A uncategorizable, mix blood oddity,
Who’s temper was only matched by his gifts.
A egotistical bass player,
Who composed works that challenged every one who played them.
Not easily defined,
Was he more of the swing era-Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton
Or Be-bop-Charlie Parker?
Was he white or black?
Some mixed blood oddity?
Who’s half white/half black father
Lit out for LA from Arizona
Only to hook up With a half Chinese/half Swede woman who died when he was young.
Raised by a half black/half Indian woman,
You wanted so much to fit in,
But realized you never would.
How strange that you would pick an instrument, a bass,
That’s rarely played alone,
Yet you became a band leader anyway,
And commanded the stage with the musical heartbeat,
The sheer dominance of maintaining the line,
And trusting the vision
You heard, always heard.

You told your son, that he was no color,
And its true.
He had a white mother,
Yet sports your looks,
But shy,
As all children of geniuses tend to be.
How do you live up to genius?
In your own life,
Let alone when the genius is your father,
And he sucks the attention out of the room
By sheer will.
How do you give up music for 8 years,
Tell the press that New York City’s finest
Are doing you a favor by evicting you?
In 1979, you died, Lou Gehrig’s disease,
Probably at the peak of mental prowess,
Your body just couldn’t take the abuse anymore,
Couldn’t pull the bow across the strings,
Stretch stubby fingers over wide frets
And play that music, so challenging,
That it was physically impossible.
I, too, know the limitations of a brain
Trapped in a body that can’t obey commands,
Aging is cruel,
Charles Mingus,
To wish your body was young again
So you could do the things you would excel at now because of time.
To play music,
Make love with the wisdom of age,
But stuck with a body that is old.

So, so long pork pie hat,
Your children hear music,
Sing blues and politics,
Understand your dynasty
And sign off in epitaph.

June 6, 2006

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