By Devon Balwit
Those in the Ark
Antediluvial rains flood the intersections
and suck at wheel wells before flaring spray.
The power, we are warned, may go out.
We drench ourselves to reach the concert,
where the downpour remains just the faintest
pianissimo behind the music. Three sets
of fingers pluck and pick. We lean in
to wild bowing, Bach and bluegrass,
all of us jazzed. If this house drifts loose
over the smitten face of the earth, where better
to weather the forty-odd days awaiting
the olive branch? I’ll take the company
of those dedicated to craft, hours of practice
visible in precision and dexterity.
The three become one trio / trinity.
I have no other credo but this—
that art mantles us from the tempest,
lets us bend nature to give it voice.
After hours of swinging hard, Oscar, Herb and Ray would look
for a place to crash. It wasn’t easy in the fifties, south of the
Mason-Dixon line, for a mixed race trio to bed down side by side.
Whites Only hotels were out for Herb for whom trio meant all in,
but Black hotels sometimes also refused him a bed. Those nights,
he and his guitar stretched out in the back seat of the band’s car
where he dreamed of dotted eighths on shot springs. Dawn and
the brothers found him red-eyed but ready for another round of
smoky clubs fueling Peterson’s blaze. For Ellis, Jazz wasn’t about
race or politics. It was about getting beyond square to where
bodies gyrated, joints loosened, and couples tapped each other’s
thighs, impatient for the hours to come, emboldened by desire.
Devon Balwit is a poet and educator working in Portland, OR. Every morning, she uses the height of her dog’s leaps as an oracle to gauge her fortunes for the day, then writes and writes and writes–hoping to produce a thing of beauty. Her recent poems have found many homes, among them: Anti-Heroin Chic; Serving House Journal; The Literary Nest, The Yellow Chair; eyedrum periodically, Rattle, and The NewVerse News.