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The news of his passing came
somewhere in the middle of the fourth track
of her Chet Baker LP.
Calmly, she turned the music off
and remembered hearing the timer on the dryer,
so she headed to the laundry room
because she would not dignify death
with Jazz at Ann Arbor
and preferred to ruminate on his short life
doing something mechanical like folding clothes.
The house was asleep, and to her,
a tree has fallen and no one was there to hear it,
if she didn’t count herself,
so no, it didn’t make a sound.
For all the world knows, the tree still stands.
Calmly, she walked around the house
and closed all the blinds,
because there was rarely too much light to be had,
but this is one of those times.
She’d rather not see the sky and remember
there are more than nine thousand miles
between that death and her life,
and you just can’t take a bus
to deal with grief like that.

She reached out to his eldest daughter in Dubai,
who also can’t just take a bus
and hold her mother and four siblings,
they who had him in the center of their lives.
She was probably herself sitting
with the blinds closed and the radio turned off,
trying to hold the truth from spilling
from inside her own quiet forest,
pretending not to hear the tree fall’s sound.

Their voices touched,
and the echoes loosed on the artificial silence
were such that the tree could have fallen
a thousand times.
And it was done.
He was gone.
The forest was mad with noise.
The sky was louder than any live jazz recording,
and death did not need to be dignified
to bear the certainty that
every corner of the world was now a different place.

“Leave a Light on” by photographer Jason Waltman


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