SITTING WATCHING

Of course when we lived
up north we wouldn’t
have imagined this, sitting
on our lanai watching the sun
set the patchy sky ablaze
sipping small glasses of port
and wondering if a light
jacket might be in order,
as the beaver moon
of November waxes slowly.

The cat, curled at our feet
cannot imagine the icy wind
howling down the street,
the foreboding clouds offering
their first flakes, knowing
this is a small taste of what
nature will bring forth
before we could again sit
in shirtsleeves on our porch.

LIONEL HAMPTON AND THE GOLDEN MEN OF JAZZ

Blue Note, pardon
our construction
black painted
plasterboard
a hanging
air conditioning duct.

Grady Tate
sneering at the skins
growling at a high hat
hands shifting
deftly reaching in
picking a beat
and sliding it
over the crowd.

Jimmy Woode
blind to the lights
slides his fingers
over strings
and talks to the bass
resting on his shoulder.
It sings back
begging , pleading
demanding as his head
sways with an inner vision.

Junior Mance
sways slowly fingers
tentative on ivory plates
crawling through the alley
scurrying for cover
and strutting down Broadway
ablaze in neon
dancing through Harlem
and sliding into the East River.

Pete Candoli
white against the night
smiles as his horn
cries out, a siren
piercing the dark
reaching up grabbing
your throat, throttling
then caressing your face
until you fall
into your seat, spent.

Harry “Sweets” Edison
wrinkled jowls suck in
the city, smooth ebony balloon
shouting from balconies
to revelers below
and mourning a love,
crying in the streets
dashing out of a basement
flat, a child crying
mother screaming in birth
a young man
groaning in orgasm.

Benny Golson
hair tied back
swaying, runs up the stairs
pauses, and leaps out
into the air
and flies off
laughing at the city
huddled below
its collar turned
against the wind
off the river.

Frank Foster
sits on the stool
and strokes
his sax, coaxing it
peering out around
a corner, slipping inside
then running down the street
dancing between taxis,
then striding down
Bourbon Street
the pall bearers
strutting behind.

Al Grey, stands
arm waving, a manic
conductor, it whispers
beckoning, then hums
droning, then slowly
it moves the fan
giving a glimpse
dragging the boa
drawing all eyes
as she passes into the wings
sticking her head out
smiling at the cheers.

Hampton leans
on the vibraphone
seeking balance,
and old man bent
from age, lost amid children.
Mallets slowly rise and fall
gaining speed
rushing out
glissando of sound
his hands flashing
the crowd rises
and there comes
silence.

First Appeared in Pointed Circle, Issue 15, 1999.

CECI N’EST PAS

This morning the sky
is a painting by Magritte
as it is most days, no title
Ceci n’est pas un ciel.

The birds rise from
the wetland as Escher
would imagine them,
the small wetland
once a place that
might be painted by
Monet on a day when
he cared nothing
for water lillies, but now
a jungle of Gauguin.

We wait for the return
of the flocks as the sun
makes its retreat
and imagine again
a blazing sky over Arles.

DINNER PARTY

Technology has effectively
destroyed the intimate
dinner parties that once
were the core of a social life.

You fretted over whether
the souffle would collapse,
if the wine was chilled
to the right temperature,
if the entree was back timed
sufficiently to allow time
for the hors d’oeuvres
and if the guests would
arrive at the scheduled time.

Now it is a fear that Grubhub
or Doordash will be late,
that you must remember
to hide the packaging from
the heat and serve appetizers
and if it will be nice enough
to eat outside, or if you will
need to check vaccination cards.

LAUNDRY LOVE

In the older romcom movies
there was often a meetcute
taking place in a laundromat.

I have spent far too many hours
in laundromats when traveling
on extended business trips.

I found one in Santa Cruz
with a coffee shop and figured
it was where romance would bloom.

I spend more than a few hours
watching but while the coffee
was always pouring, an espresso

or cappuccino hissing away,
I never saw a couple form, a date
offered, just a dryer tumbling

hopes and dreams, as they
withered in the heat, awaiting
the lonely basket home.

WETLAND HAIKU

Beside the still pond
dragonflies hover lightly
senbazuru dawn

The Great Egret stares
the still pond returns his stare
dawning sun laughing

Clouds swallow the moon
moorhens chanting their vespers
sleep overtakes us

A dragonfly sits
waiting for us to take wing
gravity says no

DRINKING TEA IN KABUL*

Rockets flash briefly
across the chilled sky,
plumes of smoke, ash
carried off
by impending winter.

Over the lintel of the entry
to the Inter-Continental Hotel Chicago,
carved deeply into the marble
Es Salamu Aleikum
staring implacably
through ponderous
brass framed doors
onto the Miracle Mile.
Countless guests
pass below it
unseeing.

My son and I
sit across a small table
spilling bits of tapas
onto the cloth,
laughing lightly
at the young boy
bathed in a puree
of tomato, his shirt
dotted in goat cheese.
My son explains
the inflation of the universe,
gravitational waves
cast off
by coalescing binary
neutron stars.
His words pull me
deeper
into my seat.
We speak somberly
of the jet engine
parked haphazardly
in the Queens gas station
unwilling to mention
265 lives
salted across
the small community.

We embrace
by his door, the few
measured hours run.
He turns to call
his girlfriend,
I turn my collar up
against the November night.

The Red Line train
clatters slowly back
into a sleeping city.
In my room
I brew a cup of Darjeeling.

*”We will drink tea in Kabul tomorrow morning, if God wills it.” – Basir Khan, Northern Alliance Commander, quoted in the Chicago Tribune, 13 November 2001.

First appeared in Hearsay, 2004 and in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008).

A SUMMER EVE

I can’t remember what year it was,
or why I was in his apartment, half
sprawled across the sofa, 
my girlfriend sitting with his,
or one of his, he had many,
on the floor, listening to 
Inside Bert Somers, and thinking
that was the last place on earth
I intended to go  that evening.

I recall the wine was good, but
then anything a step up from
Ripple or Boone’s Farm was good,
and the rugs were threadbare.

I was never a fan of Bert, didn’t
know until today that he died
and was buried in Valhalla,
thirty years ago, not long after
my youth did as well, although 
I am here to mourn that at least.

ANGLE OF INCIDENCE

Dusk reflects dawn much as
dawn reflects dusk, and it is
our fear of night and deep need
for direction that sets them apart.

Imagine a photograph of the sun
hovering just over the horizon,
compass-less we do not know
what preceded, what will follow.

We prefer day and dawn, for
it is then we feel in control,
our thoughts leashed, our fears
locked away from sight and touch.

Dusk promises only night,
the darkness where our fears
find corners in which to hide,
only to spring out unwanted.

So we turn away from the sky,
unsinged by its flaming beauty,
hide ourselves from and in fear
as nature laughs at our foolishness.

HEAVEN, UTAH

We would sit around the small park
as evening made a hasty retreat
to somewhere, anywhere more lively
than Salt Lake City in the heart of summer.

We’d pass a jug of whatever was
cheapest at the state package store,
usuall Gallo this or that, and roll joints
which made their way around our circle.

The cops would drive by every once
in a while, and wave, and we’d
politely wave back and yell thanks
which brought a smile as they drove off.

In Salt Lake City, in 1969, there was
no drug problem, and you only drank
in private, or smirked at those who did
in this boring little corner of Mormon heaven.