Eight poems from a new book by Michael L. Newell

May 25th, 2022

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For many years I have had the privilege to publish selections of poetry submitted by Mr. Michael L. Newell.  The Florida-based poet has taught and lived all over the world, including Japan, The Philippine Islands, Thailand, Kuwait, Mexico, Egypt, Estonia, Rwanda, and 13 American states, and his lifelong experiences influenced by these places, their people, and his diverse interests – including jazz music – show up in his reflective, genuine, sensitive work.  Michael takes in his world, and shares it.

The following poems appear in Michael’s new collection of poetry, Still the World Beckons: New and Selected Poems (cyberwit.net) which is now available on Amazon, among other places.

Please enjoy…

-Joe Maita
Editor/Publisher

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Just Your Basic Septuagenarian

He wakes, full of aches, to a new day, stumbles
off the couch where he sleeps more often than not,
grumbles all the way to the bathroom, a place
he visits far too often these days, leers, scowls,
and laughs at himself in the mirror, eventually
brushes his teeth where he is reminded how many

teeth have exited the playing field, wanders to his
computer to check news, e-mail, and read
a poem or essay or opinion rant by some other
old fart trying to find meaning in life’s ashes,
turns on “Sketches of Spain” and sits absolutely still
as its profound beauty fills his dwelling, music

that sweeps him along as the ocean might carry
a ship far beyond what mind can imagine;
he ends up standing by living room window
watching a slow rain wash autumn streets
empty of anything save bare branches, ruined
bushes, and one old couple (bundled up

in coats, scarves, kerchief, hat, and rubber boots)
who lean into one another as they weave
their arms together and raise their faces
to the rain as though being blessed by falling
water, passing clouds, and the one blade
of sunlight slicing through gray sky.

The man in the window finds himself humming
“Singing in the Rain,” surprises himself by launching
into a clumsy soft shoe, winces at pain in his knees,
discovers uproarious laughter, collapses into
the rickety rocking chair that is nearly as brittle
as he is, wonders why he is laughing, and laughs harder.

 

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Jazz

sprawls
……….everywhere

girls fly through
……….jump rope routines
……….……….known for generations
yet
……….each lass
……….……….invents moves
shaped differently

……….all together create
……….……….a wilderness
……….………………..of hop skip leap jump
……….…………………………..steeped in tradition
……….……………………………………..yet new in subtle ways

b/ball players spend years
……….developing skills
……….……….some become artists
……….………………..who display amazing
……….…………………………..grace never before seen
which transforms the game
……….again and again
……….……….others have skill but no heart no insight
……….………………..some have limited skills yet unlimited heart

couples search for new ways
……….to dance the ballet tango waltz hip hop fandango of love
……….try to surpass what has been done for generations
……….……….aware they may fail but forever inspired

parents find fresh ways to make mistakes
……….then find ways to turn them
……….……….into acts of love that liberate

teacher scientist carpenter truck driver gardener salesman fool or genius
……….all learn things that must be done
……….……….yet ultimately fail are warped broken bent barren
……….………………..then reinvented renewed revived

as ragtime led to Dixieland which begat swing
……….which brought forth bop cool jazz hard bop free jazz and fusion
……….……….and an ever changing future filled with past present
………………………..and whatever is to come

jazz is life
……….forever failing
……….………forever striving
………………………..forever aware of possibility limitation
……….…………………………..and an eternal need to dare

 

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Tribute to Modern Jazz Quartet

Softly as in a morning sunrise,
Milt Jackson and John Lewis
make pianos and vibes dance
through imagined morning dream,

bright and stormy; audience hears,
sees brilliant raindrops swiftly dance
on waves, and double bass
in Heath’s hands drives piano

and vibes in a wild, yet always
controlled dance; Connie Kay’s
drums control from start to finish
the group’s energy, drive, perpetual

life life life, a-swirl, a-blaze, and bass
is the heartbeat beat beat, as piano
and vibes explore what there is
in sky, water, land, and life, oh so lively

wild life which seeks more life, unquantifiable
life, and all sings, all swings, as the group climbs
musical stairs in search of the perfect sunrise,
the perfect morning, as they finally fade

into audience’s wild, ecstatic, uninhibited applause
which will also drift off, as clouds do, as life does.
Outside the sun seeps through, painting clouds
with rainbow; soon rain and clouds drift into distance.

 

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Joe Williams At Newport ’63

“In the evening, in the evening, hey people, when the sun goes down,”
croons Joe Williams, “in the evening, hey people, when the sun goes down,
ain’t it lonesome, ain’t it lonesome, your baby’s
not around, when the sun goes down.”

Williams envelops the crowd with his smoky voice, as though they are all sitting
round a fire drinking, swaying to the music, as first Junior Mance’s piano
makes the world swing, then Zoot Sims turns the world into amazing
tenor sax celebrating life, love, and beauty — all are welcome, all are worthy;

ah, and now Howard McGhee makes his trumpet ring,
sing, and embrace the joys of life in a wild testament to love’s truth;
followed by Big Joe who comes back in, builds to an amazing falsetto
that celebrates the sun going down, and sends one and all

out to find the one who is loved, needed, essential. As the music
fades to silence, the audience detonates into sustained applause.

 

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Breath Of The Blues

Wind inhabits a young man’s flute
and fills the world with music
of sunset’s somber beauty and
the sweep across autumn landscape
of leaves afloat with wild grace

similar to migrating butterflies;
the melody coaxes silence
from all who hear; an early
moon sails across hills on horizon,
as the world defines sorrow and grace

in fall of a leaf, in a naked branch,
in blood-soaked horizon, in wild dance
of children toward the world of grownups
where lies marriage of grief and joy, and a flute
lures tears and laughter as it breathes the blues.

 

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If Only If Only If Only

full moon expands across midnight sky
as I stand motionless in silent worship
beneath a handful of pine trees

the moon’s brilliant gold impregnates night
in every direction
one imagines its color becoming sound

blessing all who are awake with soaring
tones of Clark Terry at his most eloquent
if only this moment had no limits

beauty never vanished music played
forever in all minds and hearts
and light always sang of possibility

 

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Alone On A Night Street

Sailing through a midnight sky,
entangled in pine branches,
a golden full moon graces
the night with a beauty

comparable to a Bill Evans
or Duke Ellington solo,
nothing needed to expand
the floating vision;

the world is subtle, and repays
serious contemplation,
a lovely peace stripped
of life’s angst and anger;

the simple act of breathing
in and out is a form of prayer.

 

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To Be Done By The Ocean Or In The Mountains 

After I am gone, friends will, I solemnly hope, tell stories
of my foibles, idiosyncracies, mind-boggling mistakes,
and avow that each exaggeration is no more than I would
have done if I were there telling the tale, and they will
be right, as only those who truly know someone can be right.

The tale of chasing a student up a flight of stairs and falling
on my face, ripping my best pair of suit pants, and the lad
almost in tears helping me to my feet–all true; the whopper,
or so some thought, where a colleague and myself convinced
a full grade of students that we were twins separated at birth,

is not only true, but done in two different schools with two
different bearded fellows of comparable girth to myself; getting lost
in my living room in Cairo is not only true but done more than once;
living a three minute walk from the Nile and not knowing it for six months
is both true and the definition of my sense of direction;

crossing the street through heavy traffic in Cairo by standing on
the upstream side of a group of veiled women and using them
as a shield is both fact and a definition of how I too often face life,
letting others shelter me from what is difficult or disturbing; although I don’t
drink, I invite whoever remembers me to lift a glass of wine, beer, orange juice,

or diet soda to laughter, foolishness, love of wit and language, to passion for
Celtic music, Beethoven, Bach, Coltrane, Miles Davis, Carolina Chocolate Drops, blues, reggae, music from the Andes, poetry of Shakespeare, Rilke, Machado, Li Po, prose of Jane Austen and Willa Cather, inspired silliness of James Thurber, and to an old man exuberantly, clumsily dancing in the rain

while loudly singing folk songs.

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………………………………Kigali, Rwanda, September 2011

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“Exploring themes connected to aging and disappointment, youth, and wonder, this volume of Michael L. Newell’s poetry immerses readers in the sensory world and celebrates life in its many forms. Whether depicting a  jig on the doorstep, a father kneeling beside his child to soothe his tears, or music’s ability to express what can’t be said, these poems connect us with ‘the startling moment /when we tumble off the world into silence,’ and life stretches us beyond what we understand or can grasp. As in other volumes, Newell’s poems explore the marvel of being alive despite the many uncertainties, and griefs that come our way. While acknowledging humanity’s finite limitations, readers are carried into nature’s expansive presence and boundless beauty as Newell can do so well. As he states,  ‘blessings come in many forms/often unexpected and unasked.’ The poems in this volume bless.”

–Anna Citrino, author of A Space Between

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Michael L. Newell lives in Florida

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Click here to learn how to submit your poetry

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One comments on “Eight poems from a new book by Michael L. Newell”

  1. Joe, Don’t forget Saudi Arabia…Sir Newell was there also, benefiting the community with his work!

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