Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A Thousand Saxophones

A Thousand Saxophones

After Hurricane Katrina — A Poem for the Living and the Dead

You can live by the water and still die of thirst.
I said you can live by the water and still die of thirst
or the worst nightmare come true:
that body of water taking over the bodies.
Sometime, tonight, see which echoes most—
a whisper or a scream. Make it something beautiful,
like, we will endure or Yes, I love you. Sometime,
tonight, think of water—how it purifies or terrifies,
cleanses, gives and takes away—think how fast
some things can rise—water, fear, the intensity of a prayer.
Officials in New Orleans said they want to save the living.
I hope they do. But I hope they can also honor the dead.
On Bourbon Street, there were over 3,000 musicians employed
on any given day. Last night, before I fell asleep,
I imagined what a thousand saxophones
would sound like if they all played together—
one thousand saxophones, different songs,
different tempos, Dixieland, Miles Davis.
Maybe it would sound like birds or bombs,
planes or preachers praising the Word
on a hot Sunday and the congregation saying Amen,
some people whispering it, some people screaming it.
Maybe it would sound like lightning tearing
open the sky or a thousand books slammed shut after
a horrible conclusion, or a thousand children crying for their
mothers or fathers. Last night, I thought, how far
would a thousand saxophones echo from New Orleans or Biloxi?
Would we hear them in Fresno? Could we imagine the sound?
Could Baton Rouge? Could Washington D.C.?
I don’t know what I should tell you.
But I feel like the saints are marching.
They are singing a slow, deep, and beautiful song,
waiting for us to join in.

Lee Herrick


Pris said...

Your poem tears me apart. So beautifully written. Such power in your words. I already know that this is one that's going to stay with me when I sign off this page.

Lorna Dee Cervantes said...

Excellent! I hope it's okay if I post it on my blog, with a link to Cafe & your blog. I just want to read it alot.

Pris said...

LOL I was just coming on with the same request. So...can I post it on my blog, too, with the link? I already printed it out so I can read a copy offline.

Lee Herrick said...

Lorna Dee C,

Definitely you can post's nice of you, and I really appreciate your compliments! It's an honor...


You, too. I'm glad you like the poem. It went through several revisions, but I like what came of it. You certain sounds just stay with you.

Pris said...

Oh neat! Thanks, Lee. And yes, I know what you mean about the sounds staying with you. Revisions don't always make logical just know they work.

Michael Parker said...

I can't tell you how much I love "thousand saxophones." It's just outstanding.