On the Effects of a Note Played by Wynton Marsalis / patricia glinton-meicholas

Wynton, trapped
languishing in electronic limbo
in the guts
of Ms Rose’s
new state-of-the-art
Bose sound system,
mined a silver note
from the motherlode
of sweet, jook dance
children borning,
Junkanoo New Year’s morning
some call it slack
moonless midnight black music.

The note
high-born, sassy
lording it in the ranks
of tonal revolution
somewhere above
high C,
screamed its freedom
hovering for a moment
over Miss Rose’s
dozing
blue-haired friends.

Then, that clean, bold sharp
skated down the scale
still sweet enough
to pierce the soul
and, swift as a kick
from her Harry’s customary brew,
collided with a soulmate
deep in Miss Rose’s
repressed, somnolent heart
a place Harry had never touched
in forty years
of shared bills
shared children
and now shared blood pressure pills
because he didn’t even
couldn’t even know
because Rose herself didn’t know
it was there.

For a moment
just for a moment
she sat
panicked
clinging
to the outcropping
of unyielding rock
that was her life
a stony face
barren, silent
except for stubby growths
of myrrh
and the cackle
of predatory Bingo crows
a plateau
that adamantly refused
to sprout peaks of ecstasy.

Sitting tight
In the narrow confines
of her skinny, dry tower
wrapped for warmth
in her thick coat of dusty doctrine
and a patrimony of prejudice
Miss Rose felt
the heavy moist note
seep through unguarded cracks
and trembled
when it burst into
quivering semiquavers
of startling arpeggios.

One more blast of the trumpet
and Rose’s Jericho
lay bare
open to ravishing
by passion’s virile Joshua.
Then
that monumental emotion
camouflaged so well
by electronic wizardry
heated her innards
to incandescence
melting her
stainless steel will
loosening the whalebone corset
of adamant denial
that stifled her heart
admitting that gigolo of a note.

Miss Rose yelped
like a scalded lap dog
unused to injury.
She thus spoke her first word
in the language of passion
unuttered in forty years
of marriage to a man
sparing of words
in any tongue.
And she wed
by a priest of England
not a local upstart.

She felt her vital juices
flow from the centre of her gut
hot and sweet
like her orange-tinged barbecue sauce
to tingle every extremity.
“Resurrection…” she gasped
her breath snagged
in the invisible net of sound
swinging between
woofers and tweeters.
“This is what the Great Getting-up
Morning is gonna feel like.”

Galvanized
by the volcanic mudslide
down the monolith
of her soul
Miss Rose
to her absolute horror
rose from her chair
and right in front
of all her blue-haired friends
she let that hungry silver note
sweet talk her pelvis.
From some unidentified
hotspot in that concavity
rose a wave of rapture
riding her neural pathways
until her whole body
pulsed in the giant
slow, rhythmic S’s
of a suspension bridge
whose point of harmonic resonance
has been attained.
The torrid pas seul ended
when Miss Rose’s
long, slow shudder
jerked to a stop
with a jolting thrust of her hips
in a bump and grind
Josephine Baker
would have died
to call her own.

A blue-haired eye
popped open:
Sweet Jesus,
Rose having the spirit
Or doing a obeah dance!
The single eye
startled
remained ajar
stuck fast
by the glue of surprise.

Just for a moment
no—just for the interstice
between seconds
Miss Rosie, gospel-hall gracious
ever careful of character
her rhythms long ago adjusted
to march tunelessly
in time to the lugubrious fugue
of her father’s values
the two-finger “Chopsticks”
of Harry’s aspirations
the querulous stingy staccato
of a critical community,
had vibrated like a tuning fork.
Her resonance to that note
a deep, foundation-rattling rising
would have been unbearable
if sustained by that ill-used
instrument.

But though brief
the reverberation
of inner space
was wild enough
free enough
to share chords with the universe
and show Miss Rose
what it was
just to be.

•••

Originally published in No Vacancy in Paradise, Guanima Press, 2001

•••

Patricia Glinton-Meicholas is a Bahamian satirist, poet and novelist who has written numerous papers, articles and monographs on Bahamian history, art and culture as well as ten books, including coauthoring Bahamian Art 1492 to 1992, the first comprehensive work on the subject, two volumes of poetry, and several works of satire. She contributed entries to the Bahamas section of the Macmillan 37 volume Dictionary of Art, and her story, “The Gaulin Wife” is included in the Penguin anthology Under the Storyteller’s Spell.

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