Death of a jazzman 1959


© 1975 by Tommi Avicolli Mecca


It was no less than a jazzman

who packed his trumpet in its black case, 

lit a cigarette, sighed, 

picked his nose, waved to the owner as he left the office, 

took his pay envelope from the counter top, 

smiled sawdust dry, exhausted, lips blistered & chapped,

face drawn like parchment paper or wrinkled wash,

nodded to the woman behind the counter 

who was yawning & checking her apron pocket for an address 

stretched his aching body  

picked up the case, nodded sleepily to the pianist 

who just returned from the men’s room slightly flushed

& spitting into a bloodied handkerchief 

the drummer light-headed, chocking from asthma, 

stumbling on tipsy feet 

the bass player rushing to hold him up: 

“you shouldn’t drink, I’ve warned ya” 

echoes as the jazzman faces the damp morning 

through the narrow alley exit 

remembering a fat-faced moon watching her jazzman last night 

like an unrequited lover, cars honking, 

women chattering, 

stray dogs around his feet like rats, 

children playing ball in the street, laughing, yelling, 

old woman in the flowered house dress 

with the open armpits

bra strap hanging off the shoulder: 

“Tony, where ya been?” 

in a heavy Italian accent as he passes, 

the light red, yellow, green as he crosses to his room, 

endless ascension of steps, 

familiar twisting of a key in a stubborn lock, 

creak of a door, crash of shoes against the floor, 

weary hands that drag pants off, peeling shirt & socks to the floor, 

body sinking into an unmade bed, nose to the pillow

when the morning suddenly seems to fizz 

like an airlock in a starship 

before the air again fills the vacuum & the space beyond

devours the jazzman


originally published in Magic doesn’t live here anymore, 1976/ drawing © 1976 by Bob Avicolli; and in Lazy Fair, Volume One, Number Ten, 1975.