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Ginza Samba Analysis

Author: poem of Robert Pinsky Type: poem Views: 18

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A monosyllabic European called Sax

Invents a horn, walla whirledy wah, a kind of twisted

Brazen clarinet, but with its column of vibrating

Air shaped not in a cylinder but in a cone

Widening ever outward and bawaah spouting

Infinitely upward through an upturned

Swollen golden bell rimmed

Like a gloxinia flowering

In Sax's Belgian imagination

And in the unfathomable matrix

Of mothers and fathers as a genius graven

Humming into the cells of the body

Or cupped in the resonating grail

Of memory changed and exchanged

As in the trading of brasses,

Pearls and ivory, calicos and slaves,

Laborers and girls, two

Cousins in a royal family

Of Niger known as the Birds or Hawks.

In Christendom one cousin's child

Becomes a "favorite negro" ennobled

By decree of the Czar and founds

A great family, a line of generals,

Dandies and courtiers including the poet

Pushkin, killed in a duel concerning

His wife's honor, while the other cousin sails

In the belly of a slaveship to the port

Of Baltimore where she is raped

And dies in childbirth, but the infant

Will marry a Seminole and in the next

Chorus of time their child fathers

A great Hawk or Bird, with many followers

Among them this great-grandchild of the Jewish

Manager of a Pushkin estate, blowing

His American breath out into the wiggly

Tune uncurling its triplets and sixteenths--the Ginza

Samba of breath and brass, the reed

Vibrating as a valve, the aether, the unimaginable

Wires and circuits of an ingenious box

Here in my room in this house built

A hundred years ago while I was elsewhere:

It is like falling in love, the atavistic

Imperative of some one

Voice or face--the skill, the copper filament,

The golden bellful of notes twirling through

Their invisible element from

Rio to Tokyo and back again gathering

Speed in the variations as they tunnel

The twin haunted labyrinths of stirrup

And anvil echoing here in the hearkening

Instrument of my skull.


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