John Solensten



Bird had just slipped out of the Camarillo

asylum narc unit

with his sax and clothes and

was doin’ a clutch-thumpin’, Billie’s Bounce run across some grassy Pennsylvania county in his

V-8 Ford with hootch bottles clankin’ in the mohair panels

when he saw this tall, brown cow leanin’ a face long as a sax case

down the slivery rails of a crooked fence.


Bird stopped for somethin’ but nothin’ much.

You drive like a jack-ass rabbit, Cow says and you look like you got more than one jumbled and jivey somebody under that hat and that conk but I know you mostly as one of those be-bop cats that are doin’ the jive that makes young copy cats go mad with their reed right and cry "Bird Is God!"

I don’t like that phrase Be-bop, Bird says and I tell the truth when I say I don’t do vaseline and lye on my head cause Mulligan says that wouldn’t be real ce-re-bral of me or couth!

No matter, Cow says—re-bop, be-bop, bop—it’s all doin’ it slow just here and there where it used to go fast et cet. . . Why you shoulda known the young dancin’ cats can’t jitter and bug on those too-much pauses and flat-footin’ notes as you be and bop and bop and be. So they stand around out in front of your Mintons three and make chin music all the time like you and me.

How’s a cow know that? Bird asks and then he looks up into the sky and says, almost out loud, Does this cow read Metronome in the light of the moon hangin’ over an alf-alfa street?

Well, a cow ain’t exactly a cat, Cow says, but by the right horn I can be hep and groove high’s the big lunar shine and besides there is a radio in my big red barn and it is played at milkin’ time.

No kiddin’, Bird says—just like you are there at Minton’s Play House except you got some farmer playin’ milk music on that bulgin’ bagpipe you carry under-neath!

But those jumps in your jive—they restrict my milk I gotta say, so sometimes I don’t fill the pail all the way, says Cow.

Now you’re tryin’ to fill me, Bird says and since we’re bein’ mean as a New York music critic man, I got to tell you all you seem to play is one kind of 12-tone dong and ding on that bell and nothin’ else I could jive with well.

Why, I’m a cow’s cow, says Cow—same’s you’re a player’s player except a lick to me is at most a lick on a block of salt on a crooked post.

Well, at least you’re brown, says Bird, feelin’ a little weary and swingin’ his sax down to pacify things.

You too, says Cow, but your narc is black and it’s gonna stomp your noise down dead in some hallucinatin’ midnight gig!

Now I just do grass, says Bird.

Not my kind of grass, says Cow.

Listen, says Cow, let’s stop this flap and make amends. So why don’t you play "Just Friends" cuz it’s hep for cows and cats and cuz "Now’s The Time," et cet!

Who’s gonna hear—way out here? Bird asks.

Well, says Cow—me and a skylark and in a word a cow and a bird.

Sure, says Bird.

And you play clean—with more thought on each note, if you know what I mean, says Cow.

And Bird does. He does.

Copyright © 2002 John Solensten.  All Rights Reserved.

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