Your cornet was the first jazz I ever loved—
How it flashed, and sang, and always shyly
Slipped away. There was not much in this life
You were sure of except the music in your brain,
And that music was always surprise.
I heard you first when I was a boy,
And imagined you an elder brother
Out there dreaming somewhere,
Watching evening swallows dip over a summer lake.
You are there still, beyond my manhood
And those few muffled recordings of eighty years ago.
A friend of yours called it right:
The sound came out of that cornet
Like a girl saying yes.
You are out there somewhere, Bix,
Beyond the ridiculous legend,
Beyond death of pneumonia at twenty-eight.
Come on, boy. Come on and play.