A monosyllabic European called Sax Invents a horn, walla whirledy wah, a kind of twisted Brazen clarinet, but with its column of vibrating Air shaped not in a cylinder but in a cone Widening ever outward and bawaah spouting Infinitely upward through an upturned Swollen golden bell rimmed Like a gloxinia flowering In Sax's Belgian imagination
And in the unfathomable matrix Of mothers and fathers as a genius graven Humming into the cells of the body Or cupped in the resonating grail Of memory changed and exchanged As in the trading of brasses, Pearls and ivory, calicos and slaves, Laborers and girls, two
Cousins in a royal family Of Niger known as the Birds or Hawks. In Christendom one cousin's child Becomes a "favorite negro" ennobled By decree of the Czar and founds A great family, a line of generals, Dandies and courtiers including the poet Pushkin, killed in a duel concerning His wife's honor, while the other cousin sails
In the belly of a slaveship to the port Of Baltimore where she is raped And dies in childbirth, but the infant Will marry a Seminole and in the next Chorus of time their child fathers A great Hawk or Bird, with many followers Among them this great-grandchild of the Jewish Manager of a Pushkin estate, blowing
His American breath out into the wiggly Tune uncurling its triplets and sixteenths--the Ginza Samba of breath and brass, the reed Vibrating as a valve, the aether, the unimaginable Wires and circuits of an ingenious box Here in my room in this house built A hundred years ago while I was elsewhere:
It is like falling in love, the atavistic Imperative of some one Voice or face--the skill, the copper filament, The golden bellful of notes twirling through Their invisible element from Rio to Tokyo and back again gathering Speed in the variations as they tunnel The twin haunted labyrinths of stirrup And anvil echoing here in the hearkening Instrument of my skull.