When Ellis Plays His Saxophone

When Ellis Plays His Saxophone

When Ellis plays his saxophone
the Heavens rain down a jubilee
it’s summer time in Harlem.
I hear Hughes & Basie & blues
Locke & James Weldon Johnson come writing
singing, writing, singing love & hurt
black & white bringing rhythm
new reasons, righteousness & revolution.

When Ellis plays his saxophone
northern lights shine on the South
crooning and crying Grandma’s song
white face becomes us coming into our own
brave & strong, teasing talent into style
playing beats, christening chords & keys
stomping rhythms & strumming pain.

When Ellis plays his saxophone
I hear peace, dead peace, peace crying
peace living, peace lying out in the sun
in search of blacker opportunity
with black, brown, mulatto voices
mixing rivers & peace
drinking this night life straight
no chaser . . . looking, laughing
at the juice from our squeeze.

When Ellis plays his saxophone
miracles form musical genius
instrumentalists go to speaking
preaching in high-pitched sounds
raised up right with tight fists
a battle hymn to sing, to raise a dead
poet & guide us through a storm.

When Ellis plays his saxophone
I am all the way alive
every way colored
reds, whites & blues
clay-shaped, tar baby bronzed
smoothed into staccato
sharpened with crescendo
low notes, high notes & all
cleansed ’til my birthright is free.

© Latorial D. Faison. All rights reserved.
This poem was published in Obsidian: Literature in the African Diaspora, Volume 14, No. 1.

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