Five poems by five poets, celebrating jazz…

April 28th, 2023

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painting by Corey Barksdale

painting by Corey Barksdale

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At Twenty-One I Caught the Blues

Midnight on flight line,
1966 Oxnard AFB,
I sit in base ops, stare
across darkened runways,
only surly weather officer
as company — every plane
in its hanger, no one inbound;
half mile away, on freeway, trucks
and occasional car sweep past;

accompanying passages to Ventura
or Los Angeles, lights flicker, lonely
emblems that provide a semblance
of human contact. I lounge in room
large enough to hold thirty people.
Wind sweeps through room. I imagine
Ella and Duke resurrecting Gershwin
just for me; bob my head; shake shoulders;
wind blends with their swinging grace.

I turn from side to side, slow
dance on swivel chair.
I flick on a radio. Wilson Pickett
is singing, “At the Dark End of the Street.”
I stop moving. Too lonely.
The room grows chilly. Freeway lights
flicker out, abandon night. Weatherman
leans motionless on counter. When Pickett
finishes, even wind has vanished.

Silence contains voices of family and friends,
many miles away. I am an empty vessel.
Across room weather officer still leans
on counter. He looks at me, shakes head,
disappears into his office. A rat scurries in one door,
out another. I wish phone would ring or someone
walk in. Four more hours until my relief. I can’t remember
who I am. Slowly night floats past. Sky turns dark blue.
I hum Nat Adderley’s, “Working on a Chain Gang.”

When day shift arrives, I greet them with jive.
No one is impressed.

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by Michael L. Newell

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My Life – The Musical

Here’s to Johnny Mathis
who rescued and romanced me
during those door-slamming,
eye-rolling, sulky, sweet, teenage years

When I cursed the insanity
of a world
that required me to translate
Latin and arm wrestle with Algebra

I’d throw myself across the bed
turn the hi-fi up
and allow Johnny’s silky voice
wash over me

Our affair suffered
and lost its urgency
when I learned he’d never
be interested in a relationship with me

And so, I slipped into the arms of
Rod McKuen, whose grainy, sexy voice
and sweet words
soothed my ruffled feathers
for a while

I dropped him
when my head was turned by
Tom Waits, a bad boy
who spoke to my soul
with words that
still shake my being

Rod Stewart made me dance
It was nice, for a while
just a dalliance
I knew it wouldn’t last
Leonard Cohen
Will Dance Me
Till the End of Time

These amazing voices
encouraged my fierce desire
to belt out the blues
To create sultry, soulful notes
to steal your breath away
Like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald ,
Dianna Krall and Janis Joplin

I sing
in the shower,
in the car
and in my room
but my ears
are outraged
and embarrassed
No amount of practice
improves the sound

The horror
of watching small children
block their tiny ears
each time I tried to
soothe them with a song
shattered my dreams

I still crank up the stereo
and imagine I’m on stage
I strut and sway
I’m Etta James or Liza with a Z

Music speaks directly
to the loneliness
that sits in my soul

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by Ann Doyle

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How We Love Jazz (a Pantoum)

Our love affair began when we were young—
We followed girl cousins on bicycles
& we stopped by the soda shop
next door to Tower Records.

We followed girl cousins on bicycles
who were mad for Bessie, Lena & Billie.
Next door to Tower Records,
the jazz record piles were gleaming, swarming with fans

who were mad for Bessie, Lena & Billie.
We became hooked to the grooves in the listening room.
The jazz record piles were gleaming, swarming with fans—
Afterwards, we drank Cherry Cokes.

We became hooked to the grooves in the listening room.
& we stopped by the soda shop
afterwards; we drank Cherry Cokes.
Our love affair began when we were young.

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by Carrie Magness Radna

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Live Jazz, Sunday Afternoon!

In that small Massachusetts town by the sea
With fishermen were more likely to be found
Than jazz musicians,
In a world of sailing ships and long past witch trials
This afternoon of jazz,
This unexpected gathering, this gift of the music
That we loved.
But we wondered, far from city lights and clubs,
What we could expect.
“Live jazz, Sunday afternoon!”

In the bar, once filled with sounds but shuttered now for years,
We gathered with the remnants of a local jazz scene
And chose a table near the empty bandstand.
The instruments stood alone,
The bones of ghosts awaiting their redemption.
Then one by one the life-worn owners claimed them.
No one we could recognize,
And names we’d never heard.

Three feet from me an aging man,
His fresh white shirt
Announcing pride in the occasion,
Picked up his trumpet,
Caught my eye and grinned.
In his eyes, the history gleamed…
Buddy, Louis, Chet, Miles, Dizzy…

A woman, once a beauty – this was clear,
A girl singer forever despite her stylish gray blonde hair,
Fiddled with the microphone
Fiddled with her dress,
New I guessed for this reunion.
I could see excitement and history in her eyes, too…
Billie, Blossom, Ella, Sarah, Anita…

A younger man, fifties or so, took his place
At the old upright piano,
Tuned to within an inch of its life,
Played a few jazzy notes
And channeled those who’d broken ground…
Thelonious, Oscar, Bill and Art and Dave…

A short man, balding, held the standing bass,
Embraced it as his eyes belied the ones who’d gone before…
Ray and Ron, Charlie and young Scott…

The gray-haired drummer, all energy and smiles,
Unwrapped his sticks and idly tapped a riff, then hit the cymbal,
Glanced out at the room and dreamed of other days,
Of other places, other times,
Of Gene and Art, of Buddy and of Paul…

The crew was nearly ready now, nearly complete
For this Sunday seaside journey,
And then came last, the aging captain of a ghost ship
Near the cold Atlantic shore
With saxophone agleam, a lighthouse light
In that cool dark room.

With saxophone agleam and history in his eyes,
He’d brought his friends along for the celebration,
The spirits of John and Dexter,
Of Stan and Bird, of Lester,
The living spirit of Sonny Rollins.

He nodded to the crowd, the band,
Then blew a sound as sweet as ever I’d heard
On the opening phrase of Billy Eckstine’s
“I Want to Talk About You.”

I leaned back in my chair, slipped off my life jacket,
Sipped my drink and relaxed.
We were in good hands,
Safe hands, and this sentimental journey
From the Massachusetts shore
Would be fine indeed with
Fair winds and following seas.

Live jazz, Sunday afternoon!

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By Molly Larson Cook

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Jump Monk (Live)
……………Charles Mingus And Friends In Concert, Japan

That bassman fingering gut strings
in my face between clear ears the sections
sit playing where recording engineer thought
brass, reeds would sound right
detailed work placing microphones
of certain manufacture in perfectly sweet spots
fused together with interlaced copper capably
sound designed for hearing later
music acting as itself does
higher harmonies

One night you told me in knowing
detail exactly how an orchestra’s member
tunes in togetherness multiple times under
concertmaster’s direction to prepare for
being guided by conductor’s baton
(some of these positions you have been)

And for the record listening
to live recorded music
by Mingus, the orchestral master
on audiophile system you installed in
our room really
within my home for now
makes me appreciate more fully
hearing you clearly have
which I maybe don’t
maybe different

I hear how
you make me
time me ascertain
listening how you do I
can not in this body
womangrown elsewhere hear
natively like that OK

hey man this way I do
educating wordily & imagine,
not speaking
because action
articulates it all from the jump

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by Catherine Lee

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Corey Barksdale

A prolific artist, Corey Barksdale’s fine art subject matter ranges from human figures in non-objective abstracts.  In recent years, he has concentrated his talents on themes that portray the love and strength that exists within the African American community.  His paintings grace the covers of books, magazine, CD covers, posters, and murals.  Among his convictions is to give back to his community through arts education.

To view a complete selection of his work, please pay a visit to his website by clicking here.

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Molly Larson Cook is an award-winning Oregon writer, writing coach, and artist. In 2016, she received the first Steve Kowit Poetry Prize in a national competition. Molly was a Fellow at the Fishtrap Writers Conference in Oregon where she worked with poet Naomi Shihab Nye. Molly’s jazz novel, Listen, was published in a limited edition in 2003. Her Colors of Jazz paintings are at mollylarsoncookpaintings.wordpress.com.

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Ann Doyle is retired and lives in South Boston, MA.  She has worn many hats during her seventy plus years; jelly donut filler was her favorite job, but the pay was “crap.”  She has also worked as a trolley driver, train conductor, and registered nurse.  She now writes short stories and poetry.

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Catherine Lee specializes in writing poetry with heavily jazz-inflected meters and pivotal word choices. In 2022, Lee finished her collaborative poetic drama, Mentor Wonders, about seniors mentoring Texas public school students, available in print at Amazon and as free video at VIMEO.  Recently, Lee was featured reading jazz poetry on KRTU-FM, archived at <https://www.trinity.edu/krtu/schedule-program> (select Tuesdays/Jazz Break at Noon/Show Archive then choose 4-11-23). .

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Michael L. Newell lives in Florida. He has had seven books of poetry published in the last three years.

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Born in Norman, Oklahoma, Carrie Magness Radna (she/her) is an archival audiovisual cataloger at the New York Public Library, a singer, a lyricist-songwriter and a poet who loves to travel (when it’s safe). She won the Third Place Prize for “Pink (a Ghazal)” in the 91th annual Writer’s Digest Writer’s Competition (Rhyming Poetry). She’s currently an Associate Editor of Brownstone Poets Anthology (2022-) and was nominated for the 2022 Pushcart Prize. Her fifth book, Shooting Myself in the Dark, was just published by Cajun Mutt Press in January 2023.

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Listen to the 1966 live performance of Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington playing “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” from the album Ella and Duke at the Cote D’ Azur. [Universal Music Group]

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Click here  to read and listen to  The Sunday Poem

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In This Issue

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