“In the Key of Keystone,” “Lost & Found & Lost” and “Winter Wind”

Issue 37 by Robert Rubino

“In the Key of Keystone,” “Lost & Found & Lost” and “Winter Wind”

In the Key of Keystone

It was all that jazz

it was the city — San Francisco

it was the venue — Keystone Korner

a former topless bar on Vallejo Street transformed

into a world class club its interior intimate its memory indelible

& all that jazz

it was in the wake of the murderous madness

of Jim Jones & Dan White just months earlier

it was a 1979 night in early spring — time for renewal & hope

& all that jazz

it was Rufus Reid on bass

it was George Cables on piano

it was Eddie Gladden on drums

it was the quartet’s leader, the headliner, Dexter Gordon,

a.k.a. Long Tall Dex on the tenor sax

blowing hard bluesy bop & ballads

as sinuous & sensuous as soft Kezar fog

& all that jazz

by the book but also improvisational

& always inspirational

& in the space between the music, Dex speaking to us

— his audience, his fans, his loyal subjects —

with playfulness from the bottom of his bottomless baritone voice

& sparkling eyes as dusky blue as all those delicately expressive notes

& all that jazz

Long Tall Dex a sophisticated giant of a black man

regal in bearing, a kindly king in his musical kingdom

with gratitude & pride & joy holding the instrument of his genius

as if presenting a newborn savior

or an almighty treasure for all (himself included) to marvel at

while absorbing adulation — wave after warm wave

of affection — healing applause revealing

perhaps we’d discovered in his performance

in his earthy & ethereal craft & art

long-lost love come home

to our own little Keystone corner of the world.

Lost & Found & Lost

Lost track of you & should’ve left it at that

since last time we spoke some years ago

you sounded wacko flying alone to England & France

alone to sue wacko Scientology for … what was it? Oh, yeah,

for messing with you your mind your brain waves your dreams.

Biology insists we’re close we’re blood

but since we can count on one hand

our face-to-face & phone contacts combined

with nothing in common & even less to say

we’re really a genetic oddity — we’re strangers estranged.

Lost track of you & should’ve left it at that

but I Googled YouTubed you find you there on the worldwide web

you with your arrest record you as a guest of county lockup

you with your scrambled screeds & one-man show on surveillance video

you destroying statues outside a famous New York church.

I Googled YouTubed you find you in court

you looking bored & angry & clueless like a primate

trapped in a zany zoo of homelessness & hopelessness

you in court saying you did it because … what was it? Oh, yeah,

because the Pope spends his nights & days cyber-torturing you.

I Googled YouTubed you find you ordered held for psychiatric evaluation

but Google & YouTube’s got no results nothing more about you

& who knows now in your middle age what’s become of you?

I Googled YouTubed you & wish like hell I hadn’t.

Wish like hell you never Google YouTube me.

Winter Wind

Painful Truth is an icepick-sharp bitter Arctic blast

suddenly showing up barging in taking over

like a crude uninvited guest at your unwanted surprise party

in that bleakest blindness before daybreak

whether of another weary wintry morn or new spring repast.

Painful Truth is an icepick-sharp bitter Arctic blast

ripping through your gated community

your hidden home with its slick security systems

its safe-solid walls & doors & ceilings & floors

& thick-as-bricks insulation guaranteed a lifetime to last.

Painful Truth is an icepick-sharp bitter Arctic blast

dismembering your distraction devices disconnecting you

tearing through layer upon thickest warmest layer of clothing

shredding your redacted reveries into shards of undressed wounds

exposing your native naked self lashed to self-delusion’s mast.

Painful Truth is an icepick-sharp bitter Arctic blast

whose sunless shock & shiver finally fade

whose polar power inevitably turns tame

rendered mute & moot as you get to work doing what’s natural:

shielding & sheltering — rebuilding & recovering: recast.

About the Author

Robert Rubino

Robert Rubino writes poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. His work has appeared in The Esthetic Apostle, Hippocampus, Cagibi and Elysian Fields Quarterly. For more than thirty years he was a daily editor and weekly columnist at California newspapers. He lives in Palo Alto, California.