Literature

“Truth Comes Marching In —Remembering Albert and Donald Ayler — a poem by Mark Kerstetter


ayler
Donald and Albert Ayler

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Truth Comes Marching In

Remembering Albert and Donald Ayler


Names like
Little Bird & Bicycle Horn
missed your tracking
Parker solos faster
backward to the future,
higher than Shaker Heights,
further than armies marching
to spiritual masterlocks
missing the Trane
to the Future Truth
marching in.

French Mayonnaise
sustained journeys
to Sweden & Denmark
where pickup players
kept standard time
while you advanced
in advance of ears
to a Primitive State
tuned to New Truth
in a key Taylor made
to play with Cecil.

As only a few had Ears,
Sense and Prescience,
like Trane & Dolphy
doubling Basses & Snares,
you were locked on a track
between Cleveland & Harlem.
So you shed your bag
of nonessentials
like the Baptist Christ
in favor of
the Ancient Spirit God.

Like a Monk hums
tunes to carry
back to the source
lessons from God
in the shapes of Jazz
to come,
swinging low
from Angels to Devils,
from High Aspiration
to the bloody street
and beyond this world.

From rubato
to no time,
from melody
to Organic Unity,
not playing
but listening,
not musicians
but Spirits
with eyes & ears
disciplined, sobbing
and rejoicing.

Like a dance alternate
called on to perform
who hasn’t yet learned
the steps,
you fumbled
to finger the horn
your brother seemed to know
by heart,
exhaling before you breathed
a single
note.

Play all you can play,
the Whole Spiritual Self,
a thousand things,
moment by moment,
escaping ghettos of mind,
screaming of Peace & Silence,
Revolt & Affirmation,
the chaos of Now,
the promise of what will be,
one long prayer
of listening.

From Jokkmokk to Cleveland,
from La Cave to The Village Gate,
riding a New Wave
not of notes
but of feelings,
marching to the Divine Rhythm
of the Old New Orleans Collective
back to the Beginning
because it’s late
getting ready for the Truth,
because it’s going to happen.

Bells are ringing
for Freedom Riders,
Voters, Summers.
Bells are ringing
for the New Schools,
new laws of Freedom.
Tongues of Bells,
Arms & Legs of Bells
marching Freedom
to the New Music
Ringing Bells.

Get ready to
mix it up like Miles,
black with a patch of white
& a Sunny Peacock
to escape the bars
of Little Rock, Birmingham & Selma.
No shutting white out
like Shepp; tho justified,
Justice demands a march
of the Unified Spirit,
so get ready.

When Truth comes marching in
will we know it?
If a mangled cry
will we hear it?
If Truth comes marching in
with Spirit Titles
but no thin dime
will we face it, or
will we pass up our turn
to change a mind,
when Truth comes marching in?

*

markk

Mark Kerstetter steals time away from restoring an old house in Florida to write and make art out of salvaged wood. His poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Fickle Muses, Connotation Press, Evergreen Review and other journals. He is a winner of the Jerry Jazz Musician New Short Fiction Award and is the former poetry editor of Escape into Life. Please visit him at markkerstetter.com

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“Spirits Rejoice”