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The Blues

 What did I think, a storm clutching a clarinet
and boarding a downtown bus, headed for lessons?
I had pieces to learn by heart, but at twelve

you think the heart and memory are different.
"'It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,' the Queen remarked.
" Alice in Wonderland.
Although I knew the way music can fill a room, even with loneliness, which is of course a kind of company.
I could swelter through an August afternoon -- torpor rising from the river -- and listen to Stan Getz and J.
Johnson braid variations on "My Funny Valentine" and feel there in the room with me the force and weight of what I couldn't say.
What's an emotion anyhow? Lassitude and sweat lay all about me like a stubble field, it was so hot and listless, but I was quick and furtive as a fox who has his thirty-miles-a-day metabolism to burn off as ordinary business.
I had about me, after all, the bare eloquence of the becalmed, the plain speech of the leafless tree.
I had the cunning of my body and a few bars -- they were enough -- of music.
Looking back, it almost seems as though I could remember -- but this can't be; how could I bear it? -- the future toward which I'd clatter with that boy tied like a bell around my throat, a brave man and a coward both, to break and break my metronomic heart and just enough to learn to love the blues.

Poem by William Matthews
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