On Hearing Sonny (“Newk”) Rollins in the Park on a Hot Summer Night

his worn hips barely support the horn
in his hands. it is gold & flashes under the fresnels

the sound is deep enough to live in. phrase turns to
brilliant phrase & the source never empties

i see in newk the hope of every limping
artist in the reluctant race against the slamming

of the lyric door when the senses atrophy
that dread day when a line of sound or verse

will hurt to render: the gripping eye
dims the active ear dims the trilling voice

dims, such fears we can contain in the long slowdrag
to humdrum death as long as the making works

there’s newk in the picture of matisse who wields
a ten-foot brush as he lay in his deathbed

newk on the bus with count basie who
could only die on the road. see newk in ghana

with du bois as he started a fifteen-volume treatise
in his eighty-fifth year, so sonny blows the final plea

of the graying work maker—let me age anywhere
but in the horn

Copyright © 2008 by A. B. Spellman