A tenor saxophone lies on the floor.
It is broken into many pieces, almost shattered.
It seems to have reached the point where we wonder if it is still a saxophone anymore. Where we wonder if it has become so disintegrated like sand from historic rocks that each piece forms its own intrinsic oneness or wholeness. It evokes lessons of supernovic atoms dispatching from massive stars; of Shiva; of entropy, in its reign of all things.
This, of course, is in the eye of our welder.
Our welder picks up the glistening saxophone neck and mouthpiece from the floor and, using a makeshift torch, melts the mangled brass edges until they reach a fondue-like dribble. He pervertedly places and smushes the fragments at an unsightly angle onto a thick canvas board. Watch his eyes, his Freudian eyes. Don’t they seem to tug him with desire? Or perhaps – perhaps if they say the eyes are a window to the soul, then he truly is a soul perverted.
But now is not the time for us to judge.
Our welder now takes hold of a green metal funnel and haphazardly fills it with more brass fragments, torching the pieces within the funnel’s chamber. We can see his delirious anticipation as he watches the golden shards shrivel up and melt like plastic tossed into a nighttime campfire. Soon we hear a trickle of liquid brass sizzling as it wretchedly falls through the funnel and pools its way down onto the canvas. The wrongness of it all ties a fisted knot in our stomachs.
Our welder seems to have wandered to a different time or place. Look how his eyes seem to pierce through irrational spacetime. Perhaps he dreams of future successes or money or recognition. For this we must forgive our poor welder. He, like us, is human. He, too, so narrowly focused that he is blind to what he focuses on.
Duly, and with a gasp, our welder realizes the alarmingly enlarging pool of molten brass accumulating on the canvas. As if to make up for his untimely lapse in concentration, he animatedly flings his funnel with Pollock-like motions in a desperate attempt to cover the canvas with the remaining metal.
As we see the boiling brass slap onto the canvas we can feel and smell the noxious toxicity burning in our lungs, invoking the feeling or even, desire, to die. Yet we find ourselves trapped in a makeshift windowless shed with this artist - this madman or genius - who now picks up what remains of a beaten saxophone bell. He torches the narrow end of the bell until it forms a rim of half-melted liquid goo, bubbling with magmatic heat, and presses it firmly down on the canvas, a perfect two feet below the mouthpiece, reforming the figure of a saxophone, so that it looks like the fragments are still capable of blasting frenzied or somber waves out into the quietness of space.
We have chosen to know that our welder has lung cancer.
Our welder begins to show signs of anxiety, for now potent fumes begin to fill his makeshift shed and wander around the room, into his brain and lungs. Watch him tell himself that now is the time to focus. Unfortunately, our welder is perfectly mistaken.
Mistaken, for a child of no more than ten years now stumbles into our shed curiously. We must not tell of how she looks, for she to us she must be a symbol of every innocent girl in the world. She is a girl, and every girl. It does not take much time, however, for this girl to notice the steaming mess on the plastic floor.
“What are you doing?” She asks in a high pitched tone of shock and naivety.
Our welder sighs internally, resenting the intrusion of the girl’s curiosity. He reluctantly drops his funnel and turns to her. Watch how his face seems at a loss without the comforts of his fantastic delusions, our welder, is perfectly broken by a mere reminder of the outside world…
“I’m working on…,” he says with extreme discomfort, “my new art project.” “What’s this?!,” the girl clamors in a defiant tone as she points toward the ground. “You just made a big mess. You just destroyed a saxophone. It’s ugly!” “Hey! This is my art! Like how you color your coloring books or sing or dance,” our welder responds, but we can see that everything he says reassures himself more than the girl. “I don’t do coloring books.” “Well, don’t you like to fingerpaint, or draw?” “My drawings are way more pretty than this. And its stinky in here, you’re gonna die from all this gas!” Our welder is shocked by the girl’s bluntness. We now can now see the insecurity in his face. He stares, red-faced at her, breathing heavily. His tone becomes desperate and pleads once more. “Well maybe, if I die…” he pauses to think. “Someone else will come along and see this. Maybe they’ll think of something they haven’t thought of or feel something they haven’t felt.” he says uncertainly. “This just looks weird.” Our welder now feels all the sickly manifestations of the toxic gasses he works with. His temples start to burn and shortness of breath aches his fragile lungs. He is afraid to show this to the child, and instead succumbs once again to his chaotic fantasies. “But this piece raises a question” – his voice grows tinny – “’cause if I take this saxophone, break it, melt it into all these little pieces, and spread it all over this canvas, is it still a saxophone anymore?” he inquires. “Of course not, you broke it!” she exclaims in retort.
Our welder now ignores the raging swelling of his lungs and stifling breath. “So maybe this makes somebody think: if that saxophone can be broken down, melted, and scattered into something completely different, couldn’t that be with everything, with all the trees and rocks, with you and me?” Our welder has embarked on a quixotical journey of words, and his vision narrows, blocking out the girl as she listens. “You see, nothing is permanent, not you, not me, not the Earth, not the sun, not the universe. It is all just matter flung from state to state, object to object, a cosmic dance of matter that we cannot begin to comprehend!”
With a thud the girl faints and dies on the floor. She still did not quite understand what our welder was saying.
We remember how she wandered into this makeshift shed looking for surprise and joy, and died aghast and confused, like green and yellow smoke.
Our welder of course has forgotten the girl already. He wonders why his funnel is on the floor and why he is standing, waving his arms animatedly in the air talking about supernovas. He picks up his funnel and slowly drips the remaining brass on the canvas. Soon he notices the fallen child. He sits down on a nearby chair and watches her blankly, his soft hazel eyes drooping down with the tiredness and years of stress that belie his fragile body. Soon those eyes will melt away, maybe with the ease of a sweet wintertime candle, maybe with the resignation of the bubbling brass that still drips out of that shiny green funnel. Then maybe his parched and textured face might start sagging, loosening the bonds that connect his head with skin. And his joints, they can begin to creak and unhinge like an old forgotten building, as his feet might begin to sprout leaves and shoots, and his body might crumple like a paper ball and be thrust into some distant bin that only leads to a great garbage cemetery; miles away in some dirt-and-shame covered mountain, where maybe he can reunite with the broken saxophone that still lies solemnly on the floor…
Our welder steps outside the shed, while little boys and girls frolic in blissful sunlight across the street. Our welder cannot see these children or the beams of light. The sun only hammers his head as he stumbles, head to the ground, dreary eyelids covering dilated pupils.
Our welder leaves our view, and returns with a ruler, to measure the length of her arm.
Image: Tenor Sermon, from the Jazz Series by Romare Bearden, 1979. Color lithograph on paper. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery.