Marie, a novitiate of the Ursuline Order, hears jazz while running errands for the Mother (New Orleans, Louisiana 1956)

Cold glass bottle clasped in hand, she hurries to her cloister, never before out to hear the sounds of an emerging city. Never before hearing the whine of a saxophone. She stops. She faces the neon flickering radiation, The Blue Nile, above the door holding the belly of Sound. Curiosity pulls the handle to her.

Bare feet float down the stairs; shins shiver with each wooden creak. Body follows, hip bones thrust through white woven cotton, pulled by Sound. His thumping thumb pressing above her pelvis, his brushing fingers running up her spine. She carries the heady smells of a southern summer (magnolia and wet pavement at dusk) behind her, pausing to taste this new front at the convergence on the last stair: cigarettes, brass, and gin. She cannot speak this olfactory language ahead of and below her (only that behind); her vocabulary fails, so she swallows, stepping down and in to understand, and the olfactory fronts pant around her, licking and crawling inside, until the door swings shut behind and the two are one, she in the middle of a dimly lit room, unknowingly made new.

No man’s head turns from the bar to look at her bright moon face, gasping in ecstasy overcome from her wimpled folds, yet the air and mood has shifted.  Genteel drawls cease, and the band reigns.

Yes, yes, yes, whispered, yes.

Yes wet on the tongues of many, wet on her tongue. The bass man’s fingers fly over deep strings and chords. Body scoops its mahogany curves, building the yes in jerks and folds.

Aahn squeezes out as a long hot release, from the lips of the man or the bowels of the bass? He builds again.

What is this feeling inside, between the legs, running along the surface of the thigh? Is there a word for this? It is not the music; it is made by the music. Warm and unsatisfied, liquid dripping, she feels a resonance within her hips.

The drummer’s brushes sweep a rattle; fingernail slides the cymbal’s razor rim for a ring that hits her ear, muddling her mind with mad sounds travelling down.

After sixteen years of uncertainty, God’s throbbing language is at last loud.  She’ll tell the Mother, triumphant, milk in hand!

And the saxophone pulls her forward, floating blur of swaying white mass and milk held tight, into the light.  Fingers pressing keys and body swung around neck, he dances and she dances. Satisfaction wails on high.

SYLVIA ROBINSON is a recent graduate of the Hotchkiss School and plans to attend Kenyon College in the fall. She is from Summerville, South Carolina, the birthplace of sweet tea, though she’ll take hers unsweetened.