The Day George Duke Died


The bedreaded sax-man had become a yogi again.
I saw him up the street before the show started,
hauling laundry back to his humble flat.
“Open mic tonight,” he had said in passing.
“You can get up there if you want.”
As though speaking to himself, or the memory
of another face in the grays of jazz-time.

The bedreaded sax-man had become a yogi again
at the north side of the moat where Sonny Rollins
melodies were struck like flames from the friction
of lunatics with instruments until the blaze engulfed
those old brick walls like a Burmese attack. He
was at the center of his brimstone be-bop
baptism, back dread-draped

as his finger shot heat at the drummer.

The bedreaded sax-man had become a yogi again,
freed from Benares and Tibet and the house of Bird
to open up the Kabbalah of hard swing like a children’s
book whose first pages could be read with leisure.
We saw him, in the extremes of his Dantean theatre,
scoop three rocks and enclose them in a tight fist
before opening it to reveal a column of pink dust

forming into a trumpeter from the Hubbard school.

The bedreaded sax-man had become a yogi again,
dark-skinned, slender, fluid and expressionless
with a face like Miles and a surge of locks that
could shape the basket of a snake-charmer.
I had accepted his invitation; how else to
converse with a man who carried a sweet horn
on his lips amid the din of cross-legged babble?

Zappa, amorous Brazil, keyboarding with Cannonball-

The bedreaded sax-man had become a yogi again
and what’s more, more warm in the light of becoming
a friend once our jam had traced an arc from beginning
to end—but still not even HE nostalgically bore in mind
the specific discography of a man just now departing
from Los Angeles for a better city of angels, he who
looked into neon pools and saw Faces In Reflection

and sexy ladies on Rio beaches, Mr. George Duke.

The bedreaded sax-man had become a yogi again
and around him we were not gathered here today
to commemorate the passing of a fusion maestro
whom I had seen become a yogi again at the Jack-
sonville jazz festival just two years before with his
puffy cheeks retreating afro and gold legacy in
the clarity of Florida sun—but there we were,

Resurrecting an old ecstasy,
setting George Duke
free from George Duke.

George Duke Faces


george duke 2

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