“The problem with jazz is miscegenation”?
Say I want purity, to be pure black,
Coloured to purge every bit of whiteness
From my innards, my psyche, my senses,
So that, if I failed, a motherfucker could
Smash me in the face with my trumpet,
Or let me fall like a comic book Capone,
Tasting black blood as it floods my mouth,
My throat slashed by another gangster.
Well, I’d be resurrectin’ that jive spiritual
Just to crucify its stupid ass!
True: I crave a cinematic albescence—
Like lightning rum scorching the throat,
Or napalm eating away superficial flesh,
Cannibalizing it down to the clean bone,
Or a high trumpet note as white as cocaine,
A kiss charging like acid through my dick,
Thanks to une parisienne as pale as New York,
Her dark hair falling in sheets around her
Like black shadow around an ivory flame,
Her upbeat allure crazying me like crack
As rich as the notes I’m hitting now—
Because jazz sprouts from gutters,
Stew-soiled beds, genital stink,
Operas o’ rape, crotch-scented wetness,
Whorettes with hips like black mares,
Pallid Barbies all high up in the shit,
A philharmonic orchestra of coitus—
Clarinet of cock, sax of cunt, drum of ass—
So that the rum alchemizing my stomach
Emerges as white-gold notes, molten, volcanic,
In the trumpeting air, now brassy, silvery.
Remember the clean facts:
We pig out on squalor.
We are only as pure
As the blue inside green.
George Elliott Clarke teaches English literature at the University of Toronto.