Lament for Lenny

Can’t sleep–
long thin cloud
over Winnipeg
this morning

Lenny’s dead:
no five o’clock bells
or aficionados
weeping in the streets

just wind-rippled puddles
cathedral silence
& funeral-like cars
backed up for work
on Portage Ave

Soft flamenco strum
make a balm
of warm pure notes
for Lenny’s soul today
Tell God to be kind
to funny valentine men


Note: “Five o’clock Bells” and “My Funny Valentine” are two of Lenny’s favorite and most played pieces. Lenny died suddenly one summer in the ’80s while I was in Winnipeg.

And then there are those large missing pieces like those of the famous, the great, and the geniuses. Legendary Winnipeg jazz guitarist Lenny Breau was never that famous but there is no denying his greatness and genius. I used to go see Lenny playing in the late ’60s before he left to record with Chet Atkins in Nashville. His road was a long tragic one after that (he became a serious drug addict and was eventually murdered) but he influenced jazz, jazz guitar playing, and even invented a 7 string guitar to play what he heard and wanted to play.

Lenny’s death left a great hole on the jazz and Winnipeg music scenes. Later in the ’90s, I would assist his daughter in writing a proposal which in turn led to a Bravo contract to do a much-belated, well-done tv documentary on her father. I have long been involved and affected by Lenny’s music, using it in my poetry readings and on a radio broadcast featuring my work. Some of the largest missing pieces then are those we feel close to, intuitively know, understand, and appreciate. And I think it is obvious that those significant pieces remain in our memories, experiences, and sensibilities forever.

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