Robert Pinsky

Lots of crap spoken about artists like Parker.
He had the generosity of an artist too, though,
Along with the cruelty that may be a part of art.

My favorite tale about him has to do with his ear
For something good in almost any music he heard.
Somebody was walking the street with him and--

They pass a bar where some hack tenor player 
Is wailing away with a Hammond organt, once
There were a lot of those bars all over New York.

"Listen!" Said Parker, "Listen!--listen to that cat"
And it was some kind of little flat nine or honk
In an unexpected place, the guy's one originality.

And Charlie Paker could hear it.  An intellectual,
Yes, as Miles Davis says, but "intellect" like
"Telephone" and "television" means "from afar."

From afar, on the sidewalk, outside the bar,
With all the cruel superiority and generosity
Of art, that brings near whatever unexpectable

Shift any hacking saxophone player packs 
In his case, where the instrument, tarnished 
Brass and pearly keys and reed, from foundries

And seashells and wherever in Egypt the reeds
May grow-- the instrument, the intellectual
Instrument rests severe and flawed, in its nest.

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