Saturday nights he’d jam the van
with the upright silver bass and the curvy
sousaphone, mouthpieces carried
in his pockets to keep them warm.
He’d pick up the guys and head
for Iowa dance halls, play big-band style
and pack the house. Back then,
the gang played standards,
some oom-pa-pas and little waltzes.
The dance floor was packed to the rafters
with suits and circle skirts;
sometimes a pretty woman sang.
“It’s getting a little dry
and dusty up here,” Jerry’d say,
and beers and whiskey sodas appeared.
My father drove home after,
half asleep, a little jazzed;
his throat choked with smoke
and lips bruised and sore.
The horns, their big bells silent,
settled once more in the back,
those Saturday night beauties—the ones
he held tight, the ones he crooned to,
my mother keeping time at home.
© by Karla Huston.
Used with the author’s permission.