Prince’s Trombone Player Coughs up a Cat by Oak Morse

Don’t let the tiny man fool you. Godless, he was godless in rehearsals. One time he locked all of our car keys in a safe and said, No one is going home until the songs sound insane. I don’t know where all that fire came from. A backup singer—with him since Dirty Mind—said it started in LA, when they were booed opening for the Rolling Stones. So much for his trench coat and pink bikini. I think Prince put it on his performance. Underneath my breath I called him a scorpion because once his poison got into you, you didn’t know who you were any more. I mean, around him you became animalistic, uncivil on your instrument, screwing it for the best notes. Watching him on the guitar was sorcery. Our admiration didn’t last long though. He’d walk around with that hot mug of green tea, waiting for one of us to have an off-game so he could bump into us. Don’t get me wrong, he was revolutionary, the baddest rock star in heels. But sometimes he was just stone cold. One night, during our Act One tour, I missed a high B during my solo on “The Flow.”  Next day, Prince said, You’re gonna play that solo right tonight? I said, I’ll do my best, and he said, Uh, you did your best last night. Then he walked away. That night, during my solo, he came up to me with his golden gun microphone and held it to my head. Oh my God. He kept doing it. For a week, and I was freaking out. At that point, it wasn’t showbiz. He jammed it right here. Hard. Left a mark. On my temple.


Oak Morse lives in Houston, Texas, where he teaches creative writing and performance and leads a youth poetry troop, the Phoenix Fire-Spitters. He was the winner of the 2017 Magpie Award for Poetry in Pulp Literature, a Finalist for the 2020 Witness Literary Award and a Semi-Finalist for the 2020 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry. Currently a Warren Wilson MFA candidate, Oak has received a Pushcart Prize nomination, fellowships from Brooklyn Poets and Twelve Literary Arts as well as a Stars in the Classroom honor from the Houston Texans. Recently a recipient of the 2021 Cave Canem’s Starshine and Clay Fellowship, his work appears in EcoTheo, PANK, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Nimrod, Cosmonaut Avenue, Solstice, among others.