“In Tribute to Ted Joans” — two poems on Charlie Parker, by Catherine Lee

August 8th, 2022

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Jazzytap, CC BY-SA 4.0  via Wikimedia Commons

C.Parker

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Mais Oui Debrief
……………..(for ted)

Was it something she said? about
the famous Charlie Parker drawers
He — himself a drawer —
illustrator, declaimer of conclusions —
commenced to rapping
about terrorists
on LA flight
demanding underwear
then parasailing away
leaving bare-assed passengers
behind(s)
to deplane
debriefed

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Bebop Tourists In Bird’s Yard
…………..(Women’s Jazz Festival, Kansas City MO, March 27, 1983)

Saxophonists Greta and Bill got directions
from the Musicians’ Mutual Foundation
(the historically black musicians’ union)
how to find his grave.
Charles Parker Jr. (August 29, 1920 – March 12, 1955 —
christened “Yardbird,” abbreviated “Bird”
as in “Bird Lives!” chalked all over New York City
by his bebopper buddies the day he died).
Go to Lincoln Cemetery, off Truman; look for the wall, right,
at the top of the hill.

So Marsha, the pianist, recruited your poet
to talk Clark Kent into chauffeuring
and Jan the banker came along for the ride.
After driving through Elmwood Cemetery by mistake
and Washington Cemetery (could they have been confused?)
and stopping for directions at a monument works
we did finally find it.
Fresh flowers already there: Love, Sheila Jordan.

Greta brought her ax out after a solemn moment
and commenced to blow a bebop head
but damn it was cold.
We took some pictures, all of us, and yes
Greta did lie down on top of him,
saying “He got stepped on a lot but he survived.”
And yes your poet did pose with her hand inside
the famous drawers Bill found:
dark blue with golden frigates, size 44,
wrapping the mouthpiece stuffed in the bell
of a saxophone Parker supposedly borrowed
for a gig once upon a time.

A train whistle mourned from the valley below.
Your poet honked the horn for the first time
flaccidly trying to blow a bass note.
It was wicked cold and lonely up top of that hill,
so we know he didn’t mind the visit
by a bunch of looney tourists in bebop country.

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Poet’s note:  These poems were written in tribute to my mentor Ted Joans. In addition to being a Beat, Ted embodied surrealism. We performed together with musicians twice in Cambridge MA in 1986-1987. “Mais Oui Debrief” is a reminiscence from one of those times. “Bebop Tourists in Bird’s Yard” is a poem that I shared with Ted that he liked very much. I appreciated that approval, as Ted was a close friend, roommate, and supporter of Bird and this was as close as I could get to showing it to him.

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Catherine Lee is a widely published neo-Beat who reads solo and performs with improvising musicians “on poem” when she can. Joint gigs with her mentor, poet/hipster Ted Joans in 1986-87 got her started on this journey. Lots of multimedia poetry, documentary videos, and radio specials are archived on Soundcloud and VIMEO. Lee’s artistic profile is located at GetCreativeSanAntonio and she can be reached at Jazz-Ovation-Inn.com.

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Watch a 1964 film of Ted Joans reading his poetry, in performance with jazz musicians Piet Kuiters, Ruud Jacobs, Cees See and Herman Schoonderwalt.

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Click here to visit Ted Joans’ Wikipedia page

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Click here  to learn how to submit your poetry

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