Prelude: The Blue Men
Once a blue man came to me and told me I was worth shit. Reckon he was right. I was born in shit, and didn’t mind it too much either.
Thought comes to mind whenever I pass this big stinking pile of mud. Really, it wafts and tosses and cradles and nurtures shit in there: always moist, never drying, always rotten and bulbous with flies and festering maggots and other nasty-ass gruel for grime; storks of stink arise like undead and caw out putrid curses. Northmen tossed it there. Building a road or some shit.
I pass this shit-pile whenever I head too far. It’s on an up-down road and when I pass I know it’s shit on one side and all that’s boundless and watery and white is behind me.
I’m biased, hell, and ignorant too, but I reckon I know a thing or two about politics–yes, the very intellectual profession itself, the kind of profession that reckons itself the science of cleaning up shit and it forgets it just spews out more. That’s nasty. And even nastier’s the people up there, and course they’re fine because they’re not in the shit and whenever the see the shit-people the shit-people are god-thankfully away from the shit.
But hell with that, soon enough time comes I’m thinking I’m a cynic too and I can’t live that life. Life I live’s one of birds and gray-eyed flying things, life of tide and tambourine, mango and tango, and above all: the jazz breeze.
Came running back home, the way I always come when spring rises twinklin over the golden mists of the fingertips, reeds and salty pelicans brushing beaks cross crabs and craggy rocks tossed from the yellow manes of coarser coasts; days last longer and nights bright up. Down the palm-lined streets and dragging my big ole bass with me, brand new thing it is and proud about it I am.
Air mists up like the fabric of the world is crying but it doesn’t rain.
Can hardly think straight I’m so pumped to play because I been away for a while and home rocks and cradles and nurtures my soul. Creep in, dressed in dark, eyes dark, flyin towards the smooth sound that hops and skips on the water, slim stones off the beach, leaping from wave to wave on the glistening reflections of white-eyed stars. Dark-eyed folk, I am.
Jobi, Jobi, Tom says as I hunker on in, calls me ‘gain and ‘gain but I roll, heavin the bass ‘long with me, feeling like my limbs dance on their own, little marching in place, little motions of the eye, sweeps of the hand, nods of the head, all in the music’s course, but they don’t got no bassist and that my good friends is why here I am.
Hop into place with the band. Just startin up set number two and I don’t need no introduction: I am.
Rhythm unfolds like the mint light of spring, yet a cool spring day with rhythmic, murky clouds nearly faded grey and green by the filtered tree-shadowed light; guitar strikes on the emotion and I keep the base for the emotion, jamming, up and down the trembling strings and my fingers tremble along with them. That piano glints and I glow, chattering maracas and all the noise strikes up cacophony and harmony at once; disorder ordered into a natural machine. All night we roll o’er the wild love of music and my fingers never tire. Rumtumratum!
Can you pursue the oblong sky, the rippling reflection in the canals you once chased, and these thoughts aren’t even mine, got some sorta divine inspiration and I at once understand another that loved and it pains that it wasn’t me, wasn’t me at all: that kaleidoscope of memory, patterns of jade and amber unknown though the lands be ashen and the scope bleak the aunt’s in black and the boy’s in white—whose memory is this? I feel at once logical and apart from the wild desire of my blasting fingers when I understand that these feelings are not my own.
Shimmering. That’s how I feel and I imagine that now it’s raining because hot fucking shit I can’t even handle this we’re rising! Rising beyond and above and past and she comes with me and we cannot even help it YES tree of light and ring of stars and blistering white and meadowlarks and scorching bark and past past past we have already seen this road but everytime it’s new the world whooshes back in the gaze of a new flooding dawn creeping fingers up the spine of gods to touch the soft and supple neck and kiss the mouth of the most beautiful one in the world; a feeling like electric sleep, a feeling like soft sheep creating the irradiate clouds and this is where we begin to realize it never lasts.
Can I ever do this again?
My fingers pluck and scavenge and my eyes sweep among the six of us musicians, grinning and brimming with wine and feeling vast and viscid. The set has come to a close.
Tom calls me over, as expected. I greet him and notice a young woman by his side, possibly nineteen but blue-eyed wisdom beyond grasp.
You aced and rolled tonight, Tom said, I’m telling you, I can’t wait to have you back.
I’m bringing my music north, Tom. See if northerners can handle some rhythm, I say. Yes, that was the plan. Bring the breeze where it ne’er before dared cross: the shit-line.
Now that’s a tremendous shame! Tom declares. Northerners, they can’t appreciate none of this great music you’re making, keep it south of Taohus, Jobi, I’m telling you. Well this here is—
I’m Lia—she interrupts but I hold up my hand. I recognize this one. She’s tall and olive-skinned, eyes of calm sea blue, short dark hair, kind expression, wise nose and heart looking like it’s outside her body.
I recognize you, I tell her. I’m a musician but I’m not ignorant. You’re Sonya Tana, in the papers and all, and you’re to be engaged. How’s that feel? Yes, for that’s the news. This beautiful young lordly woman who’s rumored to be as good at books as she is at swords is to be married, likely against her own will, and this is the kinda thing that makes me think: if you’re a young woman like Sonya Tana, the niece of the Duke, and you’re to be married—whatchu going to do?
If I’m being truthful, terrible, Sonya says. Her voice is steady but I know she has a drink or two in her. Tom and I were just talking over how to stop it, she said.
Custom’s marriage, I say.
Well, let’s talk about breaking it, she says with a smile.
Well, I say. I sat down in the seat next to her. Strange woman. At breaking custom, an expert I am, I say. Now, your uncle may be the Duke but you’re nearly a duchess yourself. You got power, and that is something.
Power? She asks. And what can I do with this power?
I’m no good at politics, I say. Go with the rhythm and stay true to what the wind says swaying the palms. I get all my advice from the ocean. Don’t let your uncle rule the dance, I add. It’s one for two and more.
Tom leaps up at this unexpected philosophizing. My dear Jobi, you’re a genius, clever clever clever! he says. Much more than a man with a bass, far more!
Yes, Tom. I’m not a fucking instrument.
I’ll be heading out, I say and stand. Nice meeting you, Sonya Tana. Thanks Tom. I’ll be back.
Come back soon, Jobi, please do!
Grab my bass, slide out that beaded door and into the night.
So we have Sonya Tana. About to be married. Clearly doesn’t want to. Surely she values freedom and even prefers the chasmal sleep to diamond chains. I considered this matter.
Wonderin if those thoughts could’ve been hers. Those vivid, clear as light, clear as water, clear as ribboning blood and clear as memories that flooded through me as the music seized my heart and soul clear off its hook were someone’s. But whose memories were mighty enough to transcend all time and space to come into me through music I made, so invoked by throbbing strings, that I could feel through another. Becoming a fucking magician, I am. That’d be some wild shit.
And the feeling of love. Not sure about it. Ever since that blue man came I know better than to love people. Though love… it’s a web that grows, that doubles with every moment and every memory that the moment creates, so time slows down even as it does speed up. All actions in that company replicate innumerable like stars, folds of ocean pressing over foam and fish: each wave feels itself and the one rushing back below.
I’d like to fasten to love but I know that music is the most beautiful thing in the cursed and sunkissed land. Not people.
So I lose time.
But I don’t mind because I ride that jazz breeze; ebb and flow’s my life—rhythmic, savage pulse. They say I’m not like the rest: a southerner. But I was born here. Or maybe the kind ole sea brought me here—against my will I’d add—but I can lose all that, lose all that and all the other things, and I can go after something real and something fresh and full of flesh and fuck I’m not a pessimist and I will make the best of this.