Jerome Kern

by Rowan Luis

The old man comes and sits near us, frowning and complaining about the uncomfortable seats. I point to a comfortable looking one and he replies he only comes in here because its close to his house and the others said they’d be here tonight but they haven’t turned up.

He tells us he used to be on television, in 1979, playing the bass clarinet. His favourite composer is Jerome Kern and he sings us renditions.

I ask him why he’s not joining in with the open mic night. He looks taken aback. “Well,” he says “they won’t pay you nothin’. You’ve gotta be paid. I was paid £19 for every half an hour back when I was big. Besides, it’s all up here anyway” he jabs his head with his finger and then starts bee-bopping.

He’s from Nottingham and married a woman before moving to Newport. He says she was the most expensive woman he ever knew. He says he spent all his money on her and then she left. “She’s gone down south” he says.

I tell him that all women are expensive, he laughs a genuine laugh; looking me right in the eye.

He says after his wife left the court gave him the children and he moved here. He says he’s never regretted it “Well you’ve gotta take a chance haven’t you? You’ve gotta take risks in life”

Then a silence.

“I used to be in television you know” He takes a deep breath and starts the Jerome Kern dedication again. “I play the clarinet you know, wonderful instrument, wonderful. People don’t know these days. I’ve worked with Shirly Bassy! Good Welsh woman I say. I used to have a woman, very expensive”

We go in circles.

He knows we have to go. He stands up as I stand up. I go round to his end of the table to shake his hand.

I extend my arm and gingerly he extends his; “Don’t crush me hand. It’s me playing hand. I need these bones.”



Author's Note: not a poem

Posted on 05/26/2011
Copyright © 2021 Rowan Luis

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Joan Serratelli on 01/20/21 at 01:02 AM

Good piece- loved the story- Congrats on POTD!!

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