By Ellen Bass
The first familiar, know-them-anywhere notes bless me
this savage morning. Coltrane’s horn racing
up and down every alley, in and out of veins and over the faces
of lakes and into the heart of stones.
And when he repeats A love supreme again and again,
it’s as though, if he says it enough, he can ease
that mercy down into me, into the tiny ossicular chain,
the chemical rush, the spark, and my brain
getting it—if even just
for this thirty-two minutes and forty-eight seconds.
My daughter’s been sick seven weeks with the virus.
Yesterday she felt a little bored, she texted. And I grab that
like a shopping cart. I load it up with hope.
Make it prayer. When the day’s portion of the Torah is recited,
someone stands by to correct mistakes.
The words must vibrate precisely in the air.
So I open my door
to the breath of his instrument
that refuses nothing, lavishing the grass, gutters, and trees,
concrete, cars, the gopher pulling down the new lettuces.
This generous sound that can mean
anything, nothing, whatever you need.
And isn’t that god? Isn’t that it?
This shivering? This fall to my knees?
Gods do walk among us.
But humans are, after all, a broken promise.
And yet, these humans seem to be trying
to enter . . . what?
I can almost hear it. This old planet.
Worms passing earth through their tissue.
Orchids, corn, mockingbirds throwing themselves into song
like there’s no tomorrow. Which there may not be.
Yet, still a mountain. Still wind.
And Coltrane still offering the same four notes
like a teacher who is infinitely patient.
He’s telling me it’s worth it
to be in a body. He’s telling me
I’m alive in a beach town in California and my daughter
in a high-rise in Vancouver, my girl,
lying feverish on the couch she’s been lying on
forty-nine days and forty-nine nights, still alive.