I’m flying a Kazakh air flight from Almaty to Nur Sultan listening to John Coltrane’s “Prestige” recordings from 1957. Far below are the steppes of Central Asia where nomads first domesticated horses and traveled with their superb, portable, round houses. I’m surrounded on this Airbus by modern businessmen and women who are reading newspapers. I’m just a poet flying on alto saxophonist and nomadic equine sparks. I feel free. By ‘57 Coltrane was back from the dead having survived a bout of suicidal heroin usage. Sometimes we get to soar clean.
I know I can’t explain. There’s no ethnography to equine-jazz-rebirth-on a domestic flight in Kazakhstan. I can’t interview my fellow passengers about the matter. Statistically it’s likely some of them like jazz. Some have owned horses and love them. Many have descended from the Altaic nomads. The imagination knows there’s freedom not tying people together in controlling narratives.
As far as instruments are concerned the saxophone is a late arrival on earth. The horse was early. Here: I put them together.
ABOUT: Stephen Kuusisto is the author of the memoirs Have Dog, Will Travel; Planet of the Blind (a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”); and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening and of the poetry collections Only Bread, Only Light and Letters to Borges. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a Fulbright Scholar, he has taught at the University of Iowa, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and Ohio State University. He currently teaches at Syracuse University where he holds a University Professorship in Disability Studies. He is a frequent speaker in the US and abroad. His website is StephenKuusisto.com.
(Photo picturing the cover of Stephen Kuusisto’s new memoir “Have Dog, Will Travel” along with his former guide dogs Nira (top) and Corky, bottom.) Bottom photo by Marion Ettlinger