The Saxophone Gives Us A Lesson In Sincerity

We are an ironic people, carrying our smirks around
in our pockets. The History of our Sense of Humor
is mostly a sad one–once you pull away the Pretense
of the Joke, what’s left? A Lonely Man doing blow
in a studio apartment. Sometimes my students think
Christopher Hitchens was right: Women aren’t Funny,
“when you really stop and think about it.”
I act like I’m about to get mad, but then
I cross my eyes and stick out my tongue instead.
Nobody laughs. They win.

The History of the Saxophone is also a sad one.
Sad, but super sexy. Adolphe Sax was dubbed
“The Dangerous Belgian.” This is sexy.
Adolphe Sax was mired in legal battles
& lip cancer & died in penury in Paris.
This is sad. Adolphe Sax was born on November 6;
this makes him a Scorpio. This is sexy.
The Greatest Saxophone Player in the World,
John Coltrane, died of liver cancer &/or Heroin.
This is sad. But so are the Near Deaths
Sax faced over the course of his childhood:

Tenor Sax in a gunpowder blast.
Tenor Sax falling from the third floor.
Tenor Sax smacked with a cobblestone.
Tenor Sax swallowing a pin.
Tenor Sax tumbling into a river,
*********or stumbling into a cast-iron pan.
Tenor Sax asleep & suffocating
*********on his own varnish.

His Mother called him
“Little Sax, the Ghost.” He was condemned
to misfortune, and for this, he must be
a Sort of God. If you can’t listen to
a Saxophone Solo without sneering,
you’re not paying attention to the Holy Struggle
between Sex & Death–the Moan & the Wail.
The little Choke in the middle.
That’s the Hold for Laughs.


Karyna McGlynn is the author of Hothouse (Sarabande 2017), The 9-Day Queen Gets Lost on Her Way to the Execution (Willow Springs 2016), and I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl (Sarabande 2009).  She is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Christian Brothers University in Memphis.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s