PERCUSSION

After years of going to live jazz
I’ve honed my skills to a fine level.
I still know next to nothing
about the intricacies of the music,
five years of classical piano and
I barely understand Bach and Mozart.

But I know where to look, who
bears watching in the combo,
and it isn’t the trumpeter, he
with his ballooning cheeks, some
clownish bellows, or the bassist
always striving hard to develop
scoliosis, the sax player with
the rubber spine swaying.

I watch the percussionists, piano
and drums, careening from
sadness to joy and hitting
a glissando of emotions, the pianist
staring at the keys, lecturing them
on expectations for us well met,
for her falling short, and the music
slides into the background of life
in the process of being lived.

THE CLUB

It’s jazz, it’s a club,
but there what once was
is no more, there are
no ashtrays on the table,
overflowing early into
the second set, no cloud
of cigarette smoke descending
from the too dark ceiling.
There is no recognizable odor
of a freshly lit Gaulloise,
in the trembling fingers of
a young man trying to look cool,
trying not to cough on each
inhalation, in the calm fingers
of a young woman who
you know speaks the fluent
French of her homeland.
It is none of those things
but it is jazz, it is a club
and in this city, now, it must suffice.

KEYS

He sits, suited in black, with 88
keys at his command,
and we fall silent.
He opens the lock of joy,
the lock of sadness,
the lock of elation,
the lock of tears,
the lock of laughter,
the lock of darkness,
the lock of light,
the lock of surprise,
the lock of compassion,
the lock of love,
and we peer through each door,
unable to enter fully
unable to turn away.
As we walk out, we know
we have tasted Buddha’s promise truth
and we go off in search
of the 63,999 remaining Dharma doors.

DHARMA GATE

He sits, suited in black, with 88
keys at his command, and we fall silent.
He opens the lock of joy,
the lock of sadness,
the lock of elation,
the lock of tears,
the lock of laughter,
the lock of darkness,
the lock of light,
the lock of surprise,
the lock of compassion,
the lock of love,
and we peer through each door,
unable to enter fairly
unable to turn away.
As we walk out, we know
we have tasted Buddha’s promised truth
and we go off in search
63,999 remaining Dharma doors.

CHARLAP

Bill places his fingers
on the keyboard, nods
to the drummer and bassist.
God waves his hands,
demands heavenly silence
and unsurprisingly to you,
no one argues the point.
Even Evans, sitting
at God’s feet,
smiles and says
“it’s so nice to know
our legacy is safe,”
and turning to Blakey, adds
“Ain’t that so brother?”

GOING

Mingus
            twisting 
roiling
                blood of streets
       child’s cry
                        laughter of old men
            s
             w
               o     
                  o
                      p
                          i
                             n
                                    g
            perched
on a spit valve

Kerouac
                        flying
            rainbowed
    rolling slowly
            e  l  e  c  t  r  i  c
                  imbibing Bukowski
       manchild
                           locked
                                                onto a page.

GALLERY (IN) CONCERT

Kandinsky, Braque, Matisse and Degas
all stand patiently in the hall
wondering if anyone, this night,
will notice them as they always
seem to do, while Motherwell and Pollack
lurk around the corner, feigning
indifference, dreading being ignored.
The sound check is long ago complete
and the three men sit in the cafe
lost in the crowd, sipping wine,
a beer, a soda as the last of the meals
are consumed and people file out
and up the stairs to the auditorium.
Picasso stares up in wonder
as the piano comes to life,
carrying us all on a wave
that undulates across the strings.
The bassist crosses the bridge,
darts back, and we stare slack-jawed
as his fingers defy our eyes
and expectations. The drummer
brushes off our questions and solos,
content to carry the music
lightly in his hands as Calder
is left to twist gently in the breeze.