A balloon in a jazz room is odd, especially one
How Deep Is the Ocean?
not gaily skimming the rafters but resting
like a big cartoon baby on the table, bobbing slightly
in front of an old man who sits waiting
for the first notes of a Berlin ballad
he once heard Lee Wiley sing. Tonight,
the singer is his granddaughter, and he's deaf.
But as a word "grandfather" surely holds a child, and play,
as much as age and dignity, so why shouldn't the old man
hold this red balloon, light and smiling?
When Alexis starts to sing,
he tips his head to it, lifts his fingers
so they barely graze its skin, and from then on
his smile and nodding head are right in time.
I know the song's question wasn't meant for an answer
(the rippling depths its marvel), but I think we are seeing it
in what travels from the stage to this table,
from one shore to another, from the young
singer to the grandfather holding a child's toy and hearing
the waves as they arrive on the skin of a balloon
into the skin of his hands, into a song about love.