«Preguntas a John Coltrane hechas por su saxofón» por Safia Elhillo

por Juan Pablo Anaya


“dear John,
what greater love is there
than that between sweat
and brow?
what lullabies nest in your breath
when you are silent?
what am I without your breath?
what am I when you are silent?
a sword
is only as powerful as its swordsman
I have no voice without your whispers
my dear John,

what other women have known the notes traced into your palms?
did Alice’s fingers coax from you
the same songs you loosened from my throat?
who is Naima?
and why does the melody in her memorial
spill such a longing out of me?
please don’t tell me that you love her,
but do you not?

dear John,
what greater love is there
than that between raw lips and gleaming brass?
how Hamlet, North Carolina
is our Harlem these days?
how hometown are your fingers in their dance along my neck?
what bruises did you smudge all down the length of me?
in a masterpiece of fingerprints from bow to bell, you claimed every slope, every key; i was yours- weren’t we happy?

before our Trane trekked all those Miles, all those Monks,
wasn’t it always just us two?
before the women who loved you mortal,
who knew not of the blue shades of your breath
knew nothing of the maps at the tips of your fingers
knew nothing of our love.
how was I to have known that
out of me you would coax the greatest love song
titled in the name of another
and never mine?

and who else could have known that
the birthplace of your breath was not your lungs
but the hollowest parts of my belly?
when they booed you in France,
who stood unflinching at your lips?

when the heroin swirled radioactive in your blood,
who poured its beams out into sound?

and when the cancer thrust its roots into you and made a fossil of your body,
who remained the only vessel for your breath?

dear John,
tell me please,
why mothers dread losing their daughters to jazz men
tell me,
why my voice lost all its melody when you left
tell me,
how is it that you could have left
when we had the greatest love of all,
a love of brass and sore lips
a love of exhale, of molding stories from an empty cavity
a love immemorial
a love supreme
of a music man
and his saxophone”