Mystery Pipes

The Best American Poetry Blog
November 13, 2009

It’s 76 degrees in Miami and the sun is in that last burst of brightness going down. I got off the plane in sunglasses listening to my new obsession, the great blind sax man Roland Kirk, Rrk master of circular breathing who could play two, three, four wind instruments at once and breathe a note as long as twenty minutes. He hummed into his flute, he switched on alarm clocks and sirens and he swung around the “black mystery pipes” on stage – a long piece of garden hose.

As a teaser, here’s Roland Kirk in the zoo in a rare clip from a film he did with John Cage, called “Sound?”

I got off the plane and hurried home to parrots in the trees, the dog hysterical and happy to be home and a giant, prehistoric manatee floating off the dock that I needed to go stare at for a while. ManateeI’m hosting a dinner soon with several writers in town for the Miami Book Fair. So with all this brightness and sensory stimulus, I need to make this penultimate post in a hurry. I took off my headset, I even took off my sunglasses.

And I thought it’s one of those achingly lovely nights when jazz will be the right music and wine the right drink. Roland Kirk had a gorgeous riff on just this sense of rightness that he called “Bright Moments” in an album from 1973. Just two years later he would have a stroke that would paralyze half his body. But he would miraculously continue to play until two years later still another stroke finally killed him.

Bright Moments seems, in this setting-sun moment, the sentiment on which to dwell.

Here are the words. The music–and Roland Kirk all bright and yellow–follow in the clip from Montreux 1975.

“Now we would like to think of some very beautiful Bright Moments. You know what I mean? Bright Moments.
Bright Moments is like eating your last pork chop in London, England, because you ain’t gonna get no more … cooked from home.
Bright Moments is like being with your favorite love and you’re sharing the same ice cream dish. And you get mad when she gets the last drop.
And you have to take her in your arms and get it the other way.
Bright Moments.
That’s too heavy for most of you all because you all don’t know nothing about that kind of love. The love you all have been taught about is the love in those magazines. And I am fortunate that I didn’t have to look at magazines.
Bright Moments.
Bright Moments is like seeing something that you ain’t ever seen in your life and you don’t have to see it but you know how it looks.
Bright Moments is like hearing some music that ain’t nobody else heard, and if they heard it they wouldn’t even recognize that they heard it because they been hearing it all their life but they nutted on it so, when you hear it and you start popping your feet and jumping up and down they get mad because you’re enjoying yourself but those are bright moments that they can’t share with you because they don’t even know how to go about listening to what you’re listening to and when you try to tell them about it they don’t know a damn thing about what your’re talking about!
Is there any other Bright Moments before we proceed on?
Bright Moments.
Bright Moments.
Bright Moments is like having brothers and sisters and sisterettes and brotherettes like you all here listening to us.”

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