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John Repps

Sonny Rollins

Jazz Orkesteri by Väinö Kunnas

I still urged students to call me “John”
when Kara or Lori or Bob said, “Hey, John,

the Guild’s got Sonny Rollins next month!”
in 1992 or 1993. In those years, “Rollins”
rather than “Love” or “Keep the Faith”

closed the vast, tattered emails Frank & I
hoisted up the lashed & splintered masts

on the 40-year-old dinghies we all-of-a-sudden
captained. Gales kept howling us backwards
round the Cape of Good Hope, but Rollins

at the Village Vanguard always turned the sea
to glass & even Way Out West made swells

low enough to encourage leisurely suppers.
Tracy or Dan or Cynthia said he or she
would front me (a phrase still current then)

the ticket—or tickets, should I want to bring,
you know, my wife. As it happened, I didn’t

want to bring my wife, hoped, in fact, that Liz
or Amy, Austin or Tim or the second female
Michael I’d ever met would forget I had a wife,

despite the ring I abjectly wore. The loose knots
of ludicrous self-deception that failed to secure

my sail looked shipshape to me, but every kid
I introduced to the Metaphysical Conceit
could see how frayed the strands—I mean,

come on, I came loose on a March or May
Sunday when no music could reach me

though all those kind youngsters still thought
me funky, a fact I verified via four or five
cagey emails in 1997 or 1998. My wife bopped

to Rollins, I mean ratcheted herself up & down,
missing the downbeat without fail as she flailed

from bedroom to balcony & back, wholly
unsuited to true discipleship, which demanded
a spontaneous, seated, ducked-head, side-to-side

chin-groove, but as an admittedly patronizing
act of goodwill, I tacked two tickets to the square

of cork in the kitchen, Shadyside damp green
out the leaded, leased dormer. You could still
find local asparagus. Strawberries had come in.

“Oh, John,” my wife said, month after month
till she didn’t. One of us got sick or said we had,

so no Rollins. “This or that” never got
anybody anywhere. You have to say
“This” and live with it, right? Absolutely. Yes.


About the writer:
John Repps grew up near the Palace Depression in Vineland, New Jersey. His latest book is Fat Jersey Blues, published in 2014 by the University of Akron Press.

Image: Jazz Orkesteri by Väinö Kunnas (1896-1929). Oil on canvas. 36.2 x 35.4 inches. 1927. Public domain.

OJAL Art Incorporated, publishing since 2017 as OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters (O:JA&L) and its imprint Buttonhook Press, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporationsupporting writers and artists worldwide.

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