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Jonah Jones

When she died
He put down his horn
And never played again.

He never said why.
Not to the girl asking questions
For her documentary.
He just put down his horn
And visited the local jazz dives
And talked with friends on the phone
And laughed at the vintage record store
Trying to sell his old albums.

He turned ninety the year
That the girl made her documentary
And he talked about his days
Playing on a steamboat
Travelling with a band
Performing with Cab Calloway
On national tv.
He said his peers called him a sell-out
For tempering his jazz
For a white audience.
He never said if he disagreed,
Although few play his music anymore.

He talked long about his career
To the girl asking questions
For her documentary.
And the girl followed him for a few days
To see the old man
Confused by his new answering machine
Forgetting the words to his signature song
"Mack the Knife"
And raising his horn to his lips
One last time.
Unable to make a sound.

He never mentioned his wife
To the girl asking questions
For her documentary.
But when she died
He put down his horn
And never played again.

lj, 2000