the last time i saw michael

he was dead
scrunched down too far
in his coffin, his skin
plastic, pale & shiny
like a dime-store doll

his beard already
beginning to break
through the makeup --
yeah bro, it sure looks
like decadance
has lost its shine

i watched him go
from a big-eyed kid
to a lowdown
roadhouse stomper
flying that wild
electric-flag hair,

prowling the stage
like a hungry cat,
playing in tongues
while the unrelenting
drums -- tracked down
the voodoo

he shocked some life
into the heart of blues,
always refusing
to be the "perfect pretty boy"
with a day-glo guitar -- plugged
directly into hoover dam

& now he lies there,
gray & voiceless,
fame lost,
name forgotten
sightless atoms
that cannot be stirred

is a smooth
treacherous & disloyal,
& i'm sure some will
recall a different story

but i'll remember a man
who embraced the
world for awhile
& offered up fire & fury
tempered by the darkness
in his troubled soul--

he burned
with a special flame,
one of a kind --

i'll leave it
to the poets
to dig for a rhyme

the day the music died

i've sat through
wagner's "tristan & isolde"

i've heard schoenberg
try to out-wagner wagner
in "transfigured night"

i've listened to webern's
"symphony for chamber orchestra"
in which sound is pulverized
into luminous dust

one enlightening evening,
i watched john cage
cram enough junk into
the back of a grand piano

to make a pontiac bonneville;

just so he could explore
the outer frontiers
of musical pointlessness

but my symphony tickets
went on ebay, the night
a well-dressed piano soloist
walked on stage & executed
a piece entitled "4:33"

as the audience
watched & waited,
this guy sat silently
at the keyboard
for 4 minutes & 33 seconds,
stood up, bowed & departed

creating the first ever
musical vacuum
in the local concert hall

leaving me wondering --

if a concert pianist is seated
at a steinway --
alone in the middle of a forest
& a mammoth oak tree
crashes down
on his hollow crown

does it make a sound?

& if it does,
could you,
would you -- have the balls
to call it music?

bird on the wing

you traded
your cabaret card
for somebody's
idea of paradise

& now --
you're standing
outside a club on
52nd street,

the rain, beating
a philly-joe solo
on the brim of
your fedora

can't even get
your fucking foot
in the front door
of the jazz joint

they named for you
bird, the man
who could glide over
chorus after chorus

smooth, sure, & fast
as your little sister's
ass, & never run
out of things to say

bird, liberator of paris,
king of bebop --
gets another royal
welcome home

so, what now --
the jazz clubs
are being replaced,
with strip dives

& they're playing
rock & roll
over at the
paramount --

claiming, bop's
just an outline
of the past,
a graveyard ghost


but you can
come with me --
if you wanna go
to kansas city

a place where you
can play without
a goddamn license
& you won't have to be

charlie parker with strings;

you can be free --

a bird-on-the-wing...

Copyright © 2004 D.B. COX. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Short Bio:
Blues musician/poet/Ex-Marine Sergeant originally from South Carolina, currently resides in
Watertown Massachusetts. Uses a Les Paul Standard, tuned to 'Open E' chord for slide guitar, and
prefers a glass slide to a metal one. Has played on the same bill with John Lee Hooker, Etta James,
"Gatemouth Brown," James Cotton, and Delbert McClinton.