Aseem Kaul

Trumpet Solo

It begins in the lungs:
the sadness, the accumulated weight
of hurt’s seasons, the way
a man’s breath must balance
his memories against his ghosts;
intimate as cigarette smoke
on the fire escape, or the sex
of music that opens
only at midnight, two lips
pressed together to make
a mouth of the dark.

Or say it begins in the heart,
and the notes roll off his tongue
like God’s phone number,
a life’s worth of experience
blown on a one-night song;
say it begins with the art
of the big spender—this man
with his golden horn
and his big dipping ways—
say he gets it so right
that it feels wrong, so wrong
you have to close your eyes.

Or say it begins earlier,
with the stain of night
spreading over the rooftops,
notes smudging the air
like fingerprints of the dead;
the song a prayer
too heavy to lift or deny,
a staircase of heartbeats
wound tight in your throat,
like pain in search of a songbird
or a bruise in search of a blow;
like the long, slow sigh of a shadow
that fades from blue to black.


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