On his last voyage Columbus
Took a trumpet player along
Perhaps to play for the Emperor
If China was finally found
Where it should have been
If Mexico wasn’t there instead.
When I read of this I thought
Musicians and ghosts both wander
And surely the trumpeter
Made his way to the Emperor
Though after many trials
Taking gigs along the way
Following jazz up the Mississippi
Along the St. Lawrence, then getting lost
And following it back down
Finding at last the hidden passage
By which the waters of the Amazon
Mingle with the Yang Tse.
All this I meant to write about
But my father’s friend, Zhu Youijan
The last Ming Emperor, was not
Feeling musical. The trumpeter
Stood on the shore watching
The poem pull away without him.