In his day-dreams, my father saw himself as a jazz pianist, poet or, possibly a writer. Life didn’t turn out quite like that… but I appreciate my many memories of his piano paying, and his quite extensive jazz LP collection.
After church my father played
jazzy and blues melodies, piano-made;
audience-empty our suburban sitting room,
far from drink, dance and smoky fumes,
New Orleans, Beale Street honky-tonk bars,
absent growl of space-age, tail-finned cars.
Father rarely jammed with others,
he solo-jived, had no band of brothers;
tunes started off well, then stumbled:
over-complicated codas got a bit jumbled,
lacking drum discipline, tight snare beat,
absent also funky double-bass: incomplete.
A jazz pianist, poet or writer, in dreams:
boundaries were smashed to smithereens;
unwanted: his title of company director;
an alter-ego intellectual, emigre, a defector
from consensus and middle-class claims;
finally he fled our family, set bridges aflame.
Now aged ninety, we’re finally reconciled,
his sharp tongue recalled from when a child;
now this lip bitten, sometimes sardonically I grin
at foolish-fallible father – conflicted kith and kin;
upbeat Dixieland tunes I still fondly recall:
record stylus sometimes sticks, scratch stalled…
Piano blues track (with washboard percussion) recorded by my dad, circa 1944