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im dizzy gillespie

they come these sister memories

a field of asphodels
spreading a patina
on the copper ground

and the coptic winds
the el hossum and el kabira
trumpeting the spring

a clarion call for us boys
to pitch ourselves skywards
in an improvisation of kites

the imprint and burn
on the pads of my fingers
at each turn of the riffing kite

to scale the scudding air
a handful of bamboo canes
split with hammer and knife

hemp string to bind them
plain flour and water for glue
and a paper sail for flight

the skin taut as a snare drum
ad libbing to the tugs of air
and then as if on an upbeat

the sky fills with kites
wafer-thin moons
a sudden flotilla

a jazz of sails and rigging
trimmed in the reach
of beckoning winds

I loved the haul and strain
the soaring climb
on the arc of a single line

and when the wind drops
the dizzy tumble and spin
the rush to reel the slack line in

then to feel again the wind’s pull
like a restive thoroughbred
racing on and off the bridle

only when the line’s played out
and the kite sits a tethered god
a detached stillness

in the streaming air
above the minarets and spires
was it time to offer up a prayer

a card notched like a key hole
hooked onto the steady line
is coaxed upwards to the kite

my arms levering to and fro
gestures of suplication
flex to the will of the wind

freed from the silt of the world
its dark enclosure
by ptolemy his geographic guide

berlinghieri the florentine said
he was lifted skywards
the odyssey lasted seven days

this is a view nothing can hide
look right and then look left
ptolemy said and direct your gaze

over the curving earth
see people beyond count
the places you can measure

above ptolemy’s known world
in the berlinghieri atlas
there are windheads in the skies

their cheeks are pouched like globes
trumpeting a fanfare
at the wonders of the earth below

now I imagine
every high flying
kite mastering the winds

to be john birks dizzy gillespie
bebopping round the world
his skywards pointing trumpet

reaching for the high note
a prayer for the heyday
a world without passports