Playing “St. Louis Blues” at Auschwitz

Consider all possible universes:
the ones that quickly collapse
into black holes, the ones filled
with double-crested cormorants,
Queen Anne’s lace and quasars,
the ones that glow with blue
and yellow stars that last forever,
the ones with only planets wrapped
in poison atmospheres and deserts.

Picture the planet Earth in one
possible universe, where at first
only a faint sound comes out
of the trumpet at Louis Bannet’s
frozen lips, then a few sputtered notes
as the guards walk toward him.
Frostbitten from head to toe, he lifts
the trumpet, tries again, and the guards
stop when “St. Louis Blues” begins.

They change like water going
from ice to liquid, like the universe
blooming from nothing at the Big Bang.
He plays as people go off to work.
He plays as the trains come in,
“Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea,”
in one possible universe, where moments
are stacked liked cards, the past with no
existence, except in the present.

Moments are shuffled and reshuffled
to give the illusion of time and history.
Everything happens at once and forever.
Somewhere Bannet is still playing
“Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Tiger Rag”
at a party for Dr. Mengele, hidden
from the guests behind some plants,
and in all universes where trumpets blast,
as long as he plays, he lives, they dance.

Lucille Lang Day

From The Curvature of Blue