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POEM: The Buddha of New Orleans (for Eli Asher)

This poem is dedicated to the trumpeter Eli Asher. In addition to being an inspiring musician, he came up with the phrase “Gumbo Sutra,” which inspired the rest of the poem. I started this weeks ago and finally finished it tonight. Thanks, Eli.

From Buddha In The Modern World (Ongoing Photo Essay)

The Buddha of New Orleans
(for Eli Asher)

The Buddha of New Orleans
plays trumpet on the weekends
with three guys from the Legion hall
and two oyster house waiters
who moonlight as dancers.

Clap hands, here comes Gautama!
He’s lost weight and looks more like
the Tibetan image than the Chinese version.
He swings like a gate, too.
(gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate)

He plays with time, shifting the beat.
No two members of the band
are ever in exactly the same place.
The dancers ignore them, whirling
around the stage in time to the low buzz
from the PA system.

After the gig, the band goes back to his house.
He cooks for them,
recites the Gumbo Sutra.
This has been going on for years
and they still never understand a word he says.

But something about
the way he says it
— so calm, so caring —
makes them smile over their bowls
of rice and beans.

Published in Jazz Music My poems Poetry


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