Easter is a complicated and befuddling holiday—so many meanings, layers, beliefs, rituals and memories, but one stands out for me. Easter will always remind me of Elliot. In 2014, Easter Sunday just happened to merge with his spectacular fourth-year saxophone recital at the University of Toronto. His precise, riveting and affecting command of the instrument mesmerized and stunned his rapt audience of devote fans. I remember feeling there could not possibly be enough room in my heart to contain the flood of joy, love and pride I experienced in those remarkable moments.
On Easter, I do my best to stay steeped in the beauty of that sacred space seven years ago—which feels like both a lifetime and a heartbeat. As I honor this rare and extraordinary human, forever missed, I endeavor to embrace the grace and joy of this glorious memory—and the notion that love never dies.
So, here are two poems.
One is Elliot’s and the other is mine. I was inspired to write “Saxophone” in a recent poetry class with Megan Adler. We dissected “Shirt” by brilliant musician/poet Robert Pinsky, and I felt a flash of Elliot’s mercurial presence. I paired it with one of Elliot’s most haunting poems, “Shakuhachi,” which describes his love for another eccentric instrument. This piece evokes his unbridled passion for life’s music—and words.
by Elliot Wright
Someone should not-
ify the authorities—
This can’t belong to me.
I shouldn’t be
allowed to touch it when in
restaurant I’ve been
in they hasten to me with
this mendicant ghost’s
pneumatic bamboo carapace,
this severed bundle
of lacquered vacuoles.
Hollowed stock, red bore tender
as a ribbon of
his throat—he who is
surely ululating to-
ward me from the Pure
Land in futile rage.
It came to me woven in
the raft of my
that gregarious poacher,
lover of things and
strangers—those stop-gap measures
against that vacuum
the mind so abhors.
No wonder, then, that he should
have parted with this
chime-hammer of the
void, this attendant to the
court of nothingness—
by Elaine Gantz Wright
The reeds. The ligature. The body. The bell.
The saxophone’s bourbon-soaked wail lingers—
longing for another coda or infinite reprise
The keys. The mouthpiece. The bow. The crook.
Where is your rarified air, your circular breath—
that was snatched, silent in eternity’s niche?
The tenor. The alto. The soprano. The bari.
Fingers on fire made your practice perfect,
such mania that muted all but your memory
Coltane, Parker, Getz and Halladay—mentors,
brethren, your trenchant troubadours of note—
persistent signs of life and bittersweet balm
Shakuhachi and Linux. Yamaha and Proust—
virtuoso with far too many talents to be
soaring into forever on a regular Sunday
I want one more song on the saxophone,
redux to recall a melody long gone—again
to fill this abyss with your timeless refrain.