Oyster Boy Review 12  
  January 2000
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» Levee 67


A Sparrow Dying of Jazz

Damion Higbie

Why have you chosen this gutter and not a grove
of sugar maple or the dizzy stone brow
of a skyscraper a hundred miles north?
Was it the heroin in this song, the slow leak
of a trumpet through the window of an old man's house?
I see him in a chair beyond the glass,
his left foot forward like the statue
of Lincoln, as if he might rise up
and take another swing at life: buy a diamond
for the blonde memory of weekend leave
in Norfolk, place it on his tongue to recall the voodoo
of a certain woman who had this way of swallowing
him, until he finally hit bottom, settled,
a jewel taking shape in the hot belly
of the world. It's not such a stretch
to imagine, bird—that the tune has already found
the veins in your neck; that soon it will
take your heart, choke it off with the sound of brass
until the beat you hear is not your own;
that the man beyond the window will stand,
but only to walk to the kitchen
for some juice, toast, a simple wedge of pie.