Learning The Last Song Of Summer…
*Note: I had this dream this morning that I had to get down, here’s the result.*
It was dusk on the last day of Summer as I meandered down Main Street, filling my eyes with neon and party lights and the last indigo rays over the horizon. The evening crowd was thinning for the dinner bells of sidewalk cafes and patio tables, dining under soft old street lamps after a day of carnival.
The Gypsy wagons were parked all along the streets with little strings of lanterns strung between, and I spotted a wayward last August firefly out of the corner of my eye, or so I supposed.
Suddenly from three wagons down the street, I heard what seemed a mournful tenor saxophone bellow. I love the instrument, so I walked a little faster toward the sound. To my amazement it was no saxophone at all.
Between the parked wagons were some small tables and chairs, where sat a band of Vaudeville hobos dressed for all the world like Red Skelton on a Friday night. Each was holding a stringed instrument made of painted tin like an antique toy full-grown. I had heard the cello player warming up his strings.
I looked around in wonder at the bassist and banjo player and a beautiful tin guitar in expert old hands, and they began to play in a slow and mournful fashion, something like wind and distant thunder.
They were making little jokes of the people walking the street, harmless really. “Look, Loquatius, that one’s so tall he could touch the sky when he writes.” “Jedidiah, do you see that gal there in the colors of a balloon on the clouds?”
I stood in the shadows a bit, looking and listening in wonder, as they got in tune and played, Like grass grown dry and amber swaying in a near-harvest breeze. “Call for Carmelina and Serenata, Cornelius.” I heard the leader say.
Suddenly a young lady as beautiful as the moon led a bejeweled elephant up to the center of the band, and the two began singing a duet, Carmelina the elephant, and Serenata, whose name is Italian for Night-Song.
They serenaded Summer off down the street without moving an inch, and you could feel Jack Frost and his minions breathing on the road to town, all the way from the North Pole they were coming, and you could feel their steps on the road, steadily marching to the beat of the tin drum by lantern light.
I walked up and sat on a street bench rapt and listening to the melancholy pull of warm winds battling cool breezes. When the band stopped on the last soft notes of their song, everybody knew that Summer had surrendered, and Autumn was on her colorful way to town.
I walked up after and put a Finn in the leader’s tin cup, and offered cigars all around to the band, cracked open my bottle of dinner wine and poured the first glass for Serenata and then shared the rest with the band. I told them my name was Poet, and asked them to share their story.
“I can tell you a little.” said Loquatius, the leader of the Gypsy band. “We found Serenata and Carmelina in a pair of milkweed pods, many sweet Summers ago. Lady Summer told us to plant them by our campfire as Autumn walked the land that season, and gave us the music to learn.” “Play it for them as they rest in the Earth and grow through Winter’s long cold days,” she bade us, “and teach them to sing the verse as Spring warms you and they come forth and flower.” “Your song will hold the Storm Demons of Winter from your camp, and Jack Frost will never be able to do more than follow you.”
“So, you see,” said Loquatius, “We keep Winter and her cold-eyed demons from us as we roam from town to town, and the ladies here have learned to sing from the time they were wee seeds low to the ground.”
I looked at the warmth of my cigar cherry and the cheer of their never-frozen camaraderie, picked up a tin fiddle, and joined the End of Summer Tin Man Band, being sure to keep my pen and journal close to hand.
By” Daniel A. Stafford