The French Horn and the Fire Escape

by Bill Turley


(Written while listening to the Andrew Hill Quintet)

The French horn strays, then joins with upside-down notes,
the trumpet, a grain of felt under a fly-away 3rd valve stem

and hard silver
jumpin’ reed-pad, high in sax hole.
Down in six bars out in eight… & 2 3 and 4.
Vibraphone: Open air over mallet columns of air.
Bop dwee doo,
and in along curl of piano wire.

Low brass pickup, eight bars then out
the harmonic curve
warmed bell and thrashing 9ths, then on
in key and crying out, deep-throated tenor’s
minor crying clear to an edge.

Ripped sheets of notes, blow man, go,
don’t worry about some blasted trumpet.
Then vibes spin their paddles again way in, and no one is following,
but everyone is there,
and it’s so out-

landish, and right, left,
shades of green cool and
so horizontal sun-baked,
a minor less than day,
heat on backs of hands, on keys and strings
stretched as far as shoulders and backs can
go, as far back as Africa.

Where the sun is singing forever muted,
felt dampened black and white keys laid out,
way out far in the way of music stands, and creases
in sheets of rains, treble, paddle tones baked in sun,
4/4 time, then the low French horn takes the out chorus.

Originally published in This Land, Vol. 5, Issue 24, December 15, 2014.