- During the Pandemic I Listen to the July 26, 1965, Juan-les-Pins Recording of A Love Supreme
The first familiar, know-them-anywhere notes bless methis savage morning. Coltrane's horn racingup and down every alley, in and out of veins and over the facesof lakes and into the heart of stones.And when he repeats A love supreme again and again,it's as though, if he says it enough, he can easethat mercy down into me, into the tiny ossicular chain,the chemical rush, the spark, and my braingetting it—if even justfor this thirty-two minutes and forty-eight seconds.My daughter's been sick seven weeks with the virus.Yesterday she felt a little bored, she texted. And I grab thatlike a shopping cart. I load it up with hope.Make it prayer. When the day's portion of the Torah is recited,someone stands by to correct mistakes.The words must vibrate precisely in the air.So I open my doorto the breath of his instrumentthat refuses nothing, lavishing the grass, gutters, and trees,concrete, cars, the gopher pulling down the new lettuces.This generous sound that can meananything, nothing, whatever you need.And isn't that god? Isn't that it?This shivering? This fall to my knees?Gods do walk among us.But humans are, after all, a broken promise.And yet, these humans seem to be tryingto enter … what?I can almost hear it. This old planet.Worms passing earth through their tissue.Orchids, corn, mockingbirds throwing themselves into songlike there's no tomorrow. Which there may not be.Yet, still a mountain. Still wind. [End Page 185] And Coltrane still offering the same four noteslike a teacher who is infinitely patient.He's telling me it's worth itto be in a body. He's telling meI'm alive in a beach town in California and my daughterin a high-rise in Vancouver, my girl,lying feverish on the couch she's been lying onforty-nine days and forty-nine nights, still alive. [End Page 186]
Ellen Bass's most recent books are Indigo (Copper Canyon, 2020), Like a Beggar (Copper Canyon, 2014), and The Human Line (Copper Canyon, 2007). She coedited the first major anthology of women's poetry, No More Masks! (Doubleday, 1973), and coauthored The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (HarperCollins, 1988). Among her honors are fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the California Arts Council, as well as the Lambda Literary Award and three Pushcart Prizes. She teaches in Pacific University's MFA program and is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.