“Devotion” – a poem and 11 “Musings on Monk,” by Connie Johnson

February 22nd, 2024

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photo by Bernard Gotfryd/via Wikimedia Commons

Gotfryd, Bernard, photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Thelonious Monk at the Village Gate, New York City; 1968

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Devotion

“He could make you see the music
within the music”
– Pannonica Rothschild

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Marginalized, itinerant
Brilliance barely compensated
You want to save them all; you
Particularly want to save him

Thelonious Monk:
The High Priest of Bebop, but don’t call it
Bebop, because it doesn’t mean anything
Aside from “hi-de-hi-de-ho”

Call it modern jazz
A sonic disturbance; playing the black keys
And the white…and the cracks in between!
Sonic dissonance; sphere of influence

Be a muse
The wild Rothschild, Thelonica!
Drive a bebop Bentley as you race against
Miles; spellbound ‘round midnight

Let’s Call This: Devotion
As you align with Nellie
Her on his left arm; you
On his right

You both want to save him
The troubled genius. Nellie makes a daily stop
To the Cathouse to cook his meals; you provide
The space for him to rest, to retreat, to be silent

Thelonious Monk: the Piano Picasso
Emblem of hipness, pioneering genius, his music
“Like leaves on a tree”: free! Impervious to rumors
Or innuendo. A love story in the end

You want to save him
You can’t save him. In the end, merely a friend
Not a savior. Artistry on vinyl and memories
Held tight. Your final wish is simple:

“Scatter my ashes….
‘round midnight.”

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Musings on Monk: Haiku

Nellie inspires
Hieroglyphics of bebop
Monk’s eternal muse

Brilliant pianist
Your inscrutability
Bugs all the critics!

In Time magazine
He was called The Loneliest
Monk: mystic recluse

Flat-fingered playing
His rhythm delivers us:
Blessed Assurance

Defining first love
Angular, melancholic
On Ruby, My Dear

A Chinese skullcap
And your bamboo-framed glasses
Too hip for this room!

Eccentricities
So idiosyncratic,
Misterioso

She races with Miles
The Baroness of Bebop
Transfixed ‘round midnight

Jazz barometer:
How do you measure freedom?
Only spirits know

Twilight is magic
His crepuscule with Nellie
Answers all questions

Thelonious Monk
Flies us to Birdland on his
Splendid bebop wings

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Click here to view the Wikipedia page for the Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, the British-born member of the Rothschild family who was a major patron of bebop.

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Connie Johnson is a Los Angeles, California-based writer who has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poetry has appeared or will be forthcoming in Iconoclast, Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Jerry Jazz Musician, San Pedro River Review, Cholla Needles 85, Shot Glass Journal, Voicemail Poems, Misfit Magazine, Mudfish 23,, Exit 13, Glint Literary Journal, Rye Whiskey Review and Door Is a Jar. .

Click here to read the Jerry Jazz Musician-published In a Place of Dreams: Connie Johnson’s album of jazz poetry, music, and life stories

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Listen to the 1958 live performance of Thelonious Monk playing his composition “Misterioso,” with Johnny Griffin (tenor sax);Ahmed Abdul-Malik (bass); and Roy Haynes (drums).  [Universal Music Group]

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Click here to read previous editions of The Sunday Poem

Click here to read “A Collection of Jazz Poetry – Winter, 2024 Edition”

Click here to read “The Old Casino,” J.B. Marlow’s winning story in the 64th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest

Click here for information about how to submit your poetry or short fiction

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