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I still believe she was my twin, But I lost the ring. . . . These songs mingle rapture and regret, and there is an air of poignant sadness to them. The series is topped off by "Sara" from the album Desire, an elegiac song that marks the end of his twelve-year marriage, a gesture as final and as painful as the $10-million-dollar divorce settlement. Dylan is one of our truest poets, and only our discomfort with an aural medium prevents us from seeing this. It's fascinating though not surprising to see that over the course of his career social themes easily lost out to eros and the encounter with the muse. How consistent this is with Robert Graves's classic account of the poet's encounter with the White Goddess in his poem "To Juan at the Winter Solstice": Dwell on her graciousness, dwell on her smiling, Do not forget what flowers The great boar trampled down in ivy time. Her brow was creamy as the crested wave, Her sea-blue eyes were wild But nothing promised that is not performed. ART HODES / Charles Simic IATE AT NIGHT one should go where blues is played. Let it be cold, J too. Some bleak Tuesday arriving with a few snowflakes along the dark avenues and treacherous-looking sidestreets. It's better that one be alone then, or if there's a friend, let him not say very much. It's too late for trumpets, trombones, and drum-rolls. What one needs is a piano; the master working alone. The few solitary patrons of the art slouched over their drinks, communing with their innermost selves. Nice people don't care for the blues. Nice people are in bed at this hour. I heard Art Hodes on a night like that in a place called Hanratty's in New York City back in 1981. 1 knew the man's music well. One of the scratchiest records in my collection is of Hodes romping with Sidney Bechet on "Weary Blues." One of my all-time favorite jazz piano pieces is Hodes's version of Hoagy Carmichael's "Washboard Blues" on an album appropriately called Art for Art's Sake. The art Hodes 176 ¦ The Missouri Review practices is now rarely heard. There's a blues-piano tradition going back to the early twenties, at least, which includes such greats as Jelly Roll Morton, Leroy Carr, Jimmy Yancy, and those many lesser-known accompanists of blues singers, people like Walter Rolland, Walter Davis, Cripple Clarence Lofton, and Roosevelt Sykes. This tradition is really separate from that of the stride-piano practiced by Fats Waller, James P. Johnson, or even Tatum. It's less technically dazzling, more succinct, more single-minded, as it were: a minimum of notes, a lot of feeling, and a disarming melodic directness with its roots in rural blues and gospel. It's the music for insomniacs, the philosophers of a single dark thought. Pascal was a blues artist, and so was Sappho. The music that night was wordless, of course, but language was never far off. Listening to it is like overhearing a man making a poem, saying the words again and again, removing one word, adding another. I've heard a number of great piano players play the blues but not one as poignantly as Hodes. The night my brother and I arrived at Hanratty's, he was between sets. We got a table right next to the piano and looked around. Hodes was seventy-seven at the time, balding and a bit bent, but otherwise strong looking. He was born in Nikoliev, Russia, and with his big nose is the spitting image of my Russian father-in-law. What amazed me about him, what amazes me about all the jazz musicians I've seen, is the knowledge that these people work at night. Fifty years of playing into the wee hours while the century turned on its brightly-lit roller coaster. A labor of love, surely, since there was never much money in it, and certainly no social prestige. This music was first played in dives, whorehouses, after-hours dancehalls for an audience of blacks. Most of...


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