Tenor Jam

By Joel Glickman

for Sonny Rollins, who turns 90 in September

I’m not going to tell you
about the sideways snowfall
of this moment, the wipers
repeating two syllables
that sound to me like Slavic
gibberish of some sort. There’s
no tune I can hear in that,

but yesterday I opened
up a sax case dressed in dust,
after years, the one that holds
my Conn 10M, marked also
“T” which means transitional,
made in nineteen thirty six,
the one called “naked lady”

by players, so named because
the guy that did the etching
engraved a tiny nude bust
of his beautiful young wife
on the flaring of the bell.
Like lots of older saxes,
it is heavier than hell,

and was cold and slick to touch
when I picked it up again.
It was like hugging a seal,
just without the wriggling.
In thirty six, Lester Young
was twenty seven, maybe
played a horn quite similar

to this one I am holding,
clunky as a sewer pipe,
but out of which danced lightly
airborne notes like popping corn,
birdless feathers in the New
York breeze. I never could play
tenor saxophone worth spit,

but did ok on alto,
better yet on clarinet,
and I’m not writing here
about one warm Friday night
I got to play in Harlem
and for once in all my years
did not feel like old white bread,

nor will I wax romantic
about Dexter or Stan Getz
or Young or Coleman Hawkins
now up in heaven, playing poker
while their tenors stand nearby
in the corner, waiting for
some warm air moving sideways.

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