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Burning Down the Scene

Posted to Action Poetry

Burning Down the Scene

Queens City Bar, New York
November 7, 1957

Small candles on tables toss shadows past
heads and upheld cigarettes, onto the far
wall where they dance across a syncopated
mural painted in tones and tunes colored
bruise-blue by the two cool motherfuckers
up on stage playing and dueling beats,
beats off the piano and tenor sax;
Coltrane with Monk, dressed in dark suits
and darker shades, bright ties, and brilliant
black shoes. Both gripping the room as they
live and honey drips from the chipped corner
of the worn black piano. Flames lick, streaming
from Coltrane's horn like a thousand slick tongues melting cracked wood and spilling over,
flowing down strong to the concrete floor
spreading slowly, burning feet and ankles.

Half burnt down, Monk's cigarillo dangles
and ghost-gray smoke curls and wraps, slyly,
around his head dodging the rhythmic bobs.
He hunches closer, inhaling the keys, measures
then quietly exhales whatÂ’s left into the thinning
strata of smoke already strangling his thick neck.

Coltrane never opens his eyes, just holds on
to his sax, playing and singing it, sacrificing his
self before the crowd tonight, gradually blazing
away liver and life for ‘Id ul-Adha with long
breaths and notes that rise and kiss
the mildewed ceiling tile.