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Harlem Solo/Song of Solomon

Solomon, sit in the kitchen and let the sun seep deep into your chest, your breast alive with the rhythms of your breath as you listen to Coltrane and the love he made as he played his sax one gray winter morning on a Harlem Saturday. Now itís a Harlem summer Sunday. Pigeon on your window sill, you thrill just to have its company as it warbles at the blue sky between tenements and the scruffy patches of lawn so quiet in the dawn before the teenagers come to claim it with their boom boxes and loud curses, drug traffic cruising slowly up the block like hearses ushering the drivers to their premature and violent deaths. Red used to be your favorite color, ítil you saw it flow from the corner of too many mouths, ítil it formed too many puddles on the ground. Now you prefer yellow, so much more mellow; the advancing years will do that to you. 

Now itís just you and the warbling pigeon and Trane and the tea leaves that lie steeping at the bottom of the cup, fragrant steam rising up to make you feel that sense of calm that eluded you for a good part of your life. No wife, not even number six, would stay with you. Too angry, too filled with a nameless rage that made you feel like a beast in a cage more than a man, and too many nights you let your fists do the talking to the women you claimed to love. But thatís all over with now, and, anyhow, we all have our regrets. You wish you had some bread crumbs to offer your only friend so heíd spend some more time before flying off to leave you on your own again. The wafts of jasmine-scented steam contain a hint of mystery, a brief history of what might have been had you been able to admit some tenderness into that granite heart. But you were taught that life was hard so you had to be harder to survive, to thrive in this heartless world of dog-eat-dog Ďtil thereís nothing left but the tails, the jails of toughness we lock ourselves in and become lifetime prisoners if weíre not careful. 

Now the pigeon has flown from the sill and itís just you, Trane and the tea, seventy-five so much harder than you thought it would be when you were a young buck running the streets in your pimp-purple suits. Back then you never dreamed the summer sun would provide the only gentle touch you would feel, it still doesnít seem real, this long season of isolation. The last notes of Trane have been played, even the hiss and pops at the end of the record have stopped. 

And now itís just you and the tea that you drink in tiny sips, loving the touch of the warmth on your lips. You close your eyes and pretend that itís a woman sharing her heat, but then a truckís horn blasts from up the street and you awaken from your reverie. You glance down and find the cup has been drained of everything save the soggy leaves clinging to the bottom and the side, so you slide it away from you, afraid to look too long lest it show you a picture of your loneliness. 

And now itís just you on a Harlem summer Sunday.

Copyright © 2003 Jan Zahler Lebow



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