It has been 371 days since my saxophone teacher and beloved friend wandered off to Elysian fields, to God, to Paradise, to the place where thoroughly kind and wise people go when the body cannot contain such a soul any further. Ornette Coleman, Pulitzer Prize winning genius and man of peace, encouraged me to pursue my passion for free improvisation and Asian/Buddhist aesthetics, and was the spark that lit any/all greatness that I am able to muster. I loved him madly, and he was in my thoughts when I walked the streets of Ha Noi, Vietnam recently. So as I wandered words began to come to me in a particular form: part haibun: a 17th century Japanese literary form mixing autobiographical haiku and prose, also involving travelogue., and part zuihitsu: (literally “following the brush”) a scattered selection of essays and fragmented ideas inspired by one’s surroundings. The following haibun/zuihitsu hybrid is for you and Uncle Ornette.
(I will be your today, and rejoice!)
“Wonderful, wonderful” said Ornette and the Buddha; Ha Noi is a genre
its passages scooters improvising counterpoint in composed roads
…having dreamed a thousand dreams… I dream him.
Ornette singing peace upon a flag, and the earth seeing war no more….
Every waking rhythm, every note = cars all fending for themselves
bio-industrial bebop, a love letter to such girls named Minh and Kanh.
I sit inches from Ha Noi’s street/songs; arteries swarming with drum solos
A traffic light; merely a fermata all ignore
the beautiful dust; the motorcycles screaming [everythingallatonce].
Traffic is theater: streams of circumstantial kabuki. Even the sun sweats after 7 am…
…I fell again on my morning bed, and returned to him with sleep.
He sang peace upon a flag,
and the earth saw war no more….
To know Ha Noi? To find a pocket of pause in vascular streets. I love Hanoi!
vascular roads, deciding moment by moment what phố comes next
in the minimal parade of #IAmHere… abandoned by trends.
Except only now do I drink good tea,
only now am I too old to gaze with fire,
to bend my talk into a casual tai ch’i of engaged action.
Poets marry experience and honeymoon within.
How small! That is when “I don’t know”
should be their poem, honestly? Be my poem!
What if I am merely bad fiction,
and I don’t see Ha Noi as her grandness.
Only seeing myself reflected back in t-shirts
and the hookah smoke that leaves me behind like Ornette did,
glorious and ethereal, remaining only me
and my efforts to not sound the silent gong
of my failures.
Astonishment is an addiction
and Ha Noi is too busy to know me…
A Ha Noi street is a zither and we navigate
the 10,000 motorized things pacing the
flat harp of 7 to 9:30 am… at least.
The melody is us plucking inward.
Sound the Ionian! the basis, the street.
Sound the Dorian! ignore me, I am just writing stuff.
Sound The Phrygian! sweat falls like notes from an old piano.
Sound The Lydian… or is it lunch yet?
Sound the Mixolydian… the salt panel when it fell into the lake.
Sound The Aeolian… keep clams and carry on.
Sound The Locrian… the rotting roofs only I notice.
the zither calls us, (Ornette called us) all to fret, to mahogany,
to make harmonics of us all,
to make harmonics of us all!
Your holy city is gone, the gaze is gone.
walking backwards home the silent gong, me!
real here, real…her
i am like an empty table, somewhere, lacking a feast
Ha Noi comforts me, but I am inconsolable.
tourists eat copycat pudding, they wander feeling justified, “righteous” visions
my little blue cup offers up Ha Noi’s finest, coconut espresso
the best in the world: dark jazz, minor funk!
this town is still a drum solo, played with a million sticks and mallets a day!
But who will love the 80 year old with her baskets and shoulder pole
who will love the tired quang ganh ladies? The pole basket navigators?
Their onions wilting
are the onion lifters forgotten? Noone to hold them
after they wander up and down Hang Dieu street?
All that is left is to drink the water at Nội Bài Airport
And leave for Seoul.
I miss your cooking, the anthology of your flavors…
I want to be unsalted
gone beyond your gone beyond,
beyond the place you left here. But,
I will be your today and rejoice….