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.

NOTING WEATHER

The weather, he announced to no one in particular,
ought to be musical or at least
incorporate some jazz.

Spring is bebop, Trane and Parker,
the sudden clash of Blakey
the downpours of Dizzy

and the hint of what’s to come
on the fingers of Monk, and
Kenny and Milt.

Summer brings the slow easing
as early Miles slides in, and we
sink into Chet and Stan.

Bebop returns as summer fades
but turns harder, with Dexter
Sonny and Benny and we know

that winter approaches, with its
disconcert, the sun an ever
more infrequent visitor,

Ornertte and Pharaoh reminding us
that the dark cold was our share
until Sun Ra appears on the horizon.

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.

FESTIVAL

They ebb and flow
like tides down the half-empty street
from venue to venue,
many with that lost look
of years in the desert, driven
on by promised
the land of honey notes,
the mother’s milk of jazz.
The event passes flap in the breeze
created by their wake, some
checking programs, their
personal map to the festival.
We stand on the corner
watching humanity engage
in the ritual we, after 14 years,
have chosen now only to observe.

NAME THAT CLOUD

The weather, he announced
to no one in particular,
ought to be musical or at least
incorporate some jazz.

Spring is bebop, Trane and Parker,
the sudden clash of Blakey
the downpours of Dizzy

and the hint of what’s to come
on the fingers of Monk, and
Kenny and Milt.

Summer brings the slow easing
as early Miles slides in, and we
sink nto Chet and Stan.

Bebop returns as summer fades
but turns harder, with Dexter
Sonny and Benny and we know

that winter approaches, with its
disconcert, the sun an ever
more infrequent visitor,

Ornertte and Pharoah reminding us
that the dark cold was our share
until Sun Ra apears on the horizon.

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.

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.