Poetry by Joe Ferguson

May 13th, 2010





The Train to Work

Smelling like French Whores,
The pin stripe pin heads
Read the Journal
Or discuss restaurants
And home improvement
While blue collars
Talk about wrestling
And politics
As if they were real.
The train to work
Brings me down…
Down to the city
It brings me down.





On the Cab Line

Shoes was wearin’ a poker face
Dead in his tracks at the Deauville.
First out on a line that ain’t moved
In an hour,
His head could be seen through the glass,
Restin’ in peace
Against the red upholstery,
The TV Guide in his lap
Open to an ad
Sellin’ bouquets of flowers.
Just then,
As a ball of spit
Collecting in the corner of his mouth
Begins a stringy descent to his shirt,
The doorman clangs his bell
And all hell breaks loose.

Behind him, Hooly honks his horn,
And swears into a corned beef sandwich,
Each wave of the doorman’s hand
Stoking flames of indigestion
To a roaring belch.
Old Gus, he shakes his one tan arm,
Spittin’ out words
With his head rattlin’
Like a Tommy gun,
“Hey wake up up there!…
“Wake up…Ya god damned bastid…”

But Shoes was wearin’ a poker face
Dead in his tracks at the Deauville.

All up and down the line
Hoods are rumblin’ and tires inchin’
Like dragsters at the light.
Then Short Change
Nudges Little Red
Who pokes his crimson face
Out the window
Wavin’ a racing form
Talkin’ neck injuries and lawyers,
In a car toon balloon
Of stale tobacco and booze.
And the Change, bangin’ on his door,
“Step over here,” he says,
An’ I’ll give ya neck injuries,”
With Cool Breeze tryin’ ta break it up
And doormen beatin’ on the bells,
So it sounds like a carny,
Jumpin’ up and down
Wavin’ their arms
Just like drownin’ men…

But Shoes was wearin’ a poker face
Dead in his tracks at the Deauville.

Finally, in one great roar
Of flatulent frustration
Hooly slams down his sandwich,
And, amidst the shrapnel
Of meat and mustard,
Kicks into drive
And squeals around Shoes,
Cursing him with a raised fist,
Forcing a motorist
To swerve out the way.
And then…
A chain reaction of cabs,
Drivers all salivating
To the sound of the bells,
Starts flowin’ like water
Round a log jam…
So when the cops arrived
They hadda laugh.
And while the leather
Of their gun belts sigh
And handcuffs
Tinkle like wind chimes,
They speak his eulogy
To the static
Of the radio waves,
“Hey Chally
“Call the meat wagon…”

Cause Shoes was wearin’ a poker face
Dead in his tracks at the Deauville.





Sinful Spring

Pink lemonade dogwoods puffed with pride
Flaming yellow forsythias going green with envy
Grass greening greedily
Angry April’s breezy blow
Lascivious loons croak conjugal cacophony
While gluttonous bees
Pollinate lustful lilies.





Windy Autumn Day

The old trees shake their great heads,
And point their gnarled limbs,
Nattering in crisp chorus,
As newly freed leaves
Race up driveways
Across lawns and roads
Like children
Gleefully fleeing mischief.





A Yard to Go

This is my yard.
I can plant my chair
I desire.
I desire now
The exquisite light
Of sunset
Tree limbs,
Long and
Hidden sounds of
Distant dogs,
A salsa bass line
From the forest fringe.
Blue hills,
White, windowless
Sides of houses
Studies in parallel lines.
While each blade of grass
Throws its shadow
With the force
Of a major league pitcher.
I stare down a dog
Alternately wagging, barking.
Barking, wagging.
If I turn my chair
A scant degree,
Yet one more universe.





The Red Head

Autumn child
Eyes green,

Let me be your Fall Guy.





At the Mission


It was just another day at the mission.

The bums, smelling like the seats of their pants

Were stacked like a roll of wooden nickels

Under a sky with mixed feelings.

Duecy was tryin to sell Detour last week’s Time

Sayin it was a girly mag,

When the sound of a distant siren

Made all heads




Like somebody dropped the name Jeeeesus in a convent.

Old dirty headed Charley moved his whiskered jaws

To grind long forgotten teeth,

Sputterin out tobacco,

Eyes winkin on and off

Like lights at a train crossin

Warnin of oncomin words,

“Down the Baptis’ mission ya gotta pray ta eat.”

He rubbed on his sooty head and winked even harder,

“De Catlicks, dey jus’ feed yas.”

Just then,

Welfare Mike,

Thumblock on the business end of a

Canadian Ace ‘Jug o Beer’

Hit the line roarin out a sea chanty.

He was nine sheets

With elbows sharp as broken glass

When he exploded into a hornpipe

Scatterin the boys like fish on a deck.

Some went down like bowlin pins

And some like broken birds,

Their curses,

Rusty as death rattles,

Rising on small puffs of bad breath.

Some shook themselves up with anger.

Others stayed down,

And shook like the insides of broken clocks.


He kept movin,

The impersonation of a drunk.

Eyes rolling

Mouth writhing,

He wrestled out words in Portuguese,

Every now and then

Holdin up his hands

For close attention

To a line that held great meaning.

All the boys were singin and cheerin along

By the time Fat Father Freddie

Popped like a pimple

From the doors of St. Louis,

His head, a road map of blood vessels

Bursting above his cassock.

All eyes turned churchward,

And to the sign,

“No man will be served who has been drinking liquor.”

A man of black cloth

And red skin,

Lou Costello in a skirt,

Father Fred descended on Mike

Fists flailing

Flutter punches

And Stinky (“I’ll HARM YOU!”) kicks,

Till Mike hit the gutter

Singing a different tune.

From the heights of the church

The stone faces of the saint’s crusade
Looked on with the gargoyles.



Duecy and Detour

(Previously published: Confluence, May 1992)

The ultimate white man

Took his ax to St. Peter

And blew…blue…blew.


Piss colored hair

Albino pink eyes,


To the fluttering white moths

Of his eyelids,

See only

The rain of notes


The clarinet’s shaft

So black

So black

On his ghost’s skin.

Into the night,


Notes in tiny spats

And top hats


In a land of rooftops

And neon soaked streets.

Into the night,

Settling softshoe

On a bus named Desire,

They leap warehouse and factory

And junkyard,

Where skeleton dogs

Howl ancient songs

From metal foothills,

In tune with the whirling wail

Cartoon scale.

Into the night,

They hover a river

Stripped to starshine

And running lights,

Kissing with wet tongues,

The shores

Of broken glass

And twisted metal bands.

Into the night

This sky swirling,

Horde of hip locusts


Deep, deep, and deep

Into the heart of a freight car

Parked at some riverfront switching yard,

Where tracks sew moonbeams

Into white pin stripes.

Deep, deep

Into the corner

Where Joe Detour and the Duece

Divide dreams

And the sticky red heaven

Of a fifty cent bottle.

“You hear somethin’?”

Share this:

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

"Nina" by Marsha Hammel
A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Winter, 2024 Edition...One-third of the Winter, 2024 collection of jazz poetry is made up of poets who have only come to my attention since the publication of the Summer, 2023 collection. What this says about jazz music and jazz poetry – and this community – is that the connection between the two art forms is inspirational and enduring, and that poets are finding a place for their voice within the pages of this website. (Featuring the art of Marsha Hammel)

The Sunday Poem

photo by Mel Levine/pinelife, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
“Lady Day and Prez” by Henry Wolstat

Click here to read previous editions of The Sunday Poem


Proceeding From Behind: A collection of poems grounded in the rhythmic, relating to the remarkable, by Terrance Underwood...A relaxed, familiar comfort emerges from the poet Terrance Underwood’s language of intellectual acuity, wit, and space – a feeling similar to one gets while listening to Monk, or Jamal, or Miles. I have long wanted to share his gifts as a poet on an expanded platform, and this 33-poem collection – woven among his audio readings, music he considers significant to his story, and brief personal comments – fulfills my desire to do so.

Publisher’s Notes

photo by Rhonda Dorsett
A very brief three-dot update…Where I’ve been, and an update on what is coming up on Jerry Jazz Musician


Photographer uncredited, but the photo was almost certainly taken by Chuck Stewart. Published by ABC/Impulse! Records.. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
“And I’m Not Even Here” – a poem by Connie Johnson

Click here to read more poetry published on Jerry Jazz Musician


"Lester Leaps In" by Tad Richards
"Jazz and American Poetry," an essay by Tad Richards...In an essay that first appeared in the Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poetry in 2005, Tad Richards - a prolific visual artist, poet, novelist, and nonfiction writer who has been active for over four decades – writes about the history of the connection of jazz and American poetry.


photo of Pepper Adams/courtesy of Pepper Adams Estate
Interview with Gary Carner, author of Pepper Adams: Saxophone Trailblazer...The author speaks with Bob Hecht about his book and his decades-long dedication to the genius of Pepper Adams, the stellar baritone saxophonist whose hard-swinging bebop style inspired many of the top-tier modern baritone players.

Click here to read more interviews published on Jerry Jazz Musician


Three poets and Sketches of Spain


IISG, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Interview with Judith Tick, author of Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song...The author discusses her book, a rich, emotionally stirring, exceptional work that explores every element of Ella’s legacy in great depth, reminding readers that she was not only a great singing artist, but also a musical visionary and social activist.

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole is an occasional series of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film. This edition is influenced by Stillpoint, the 2021 album by Zen practitioner Barrett Martin


Jason Innocent, on “3”, Abdullah Ibrahim’s latest album... Album reviews are rarely published on Jerry Jazz Musician, but Jason Innocent’s experience with the pianist Abdullah Ibrahim’s new recording captures the essence of this artist’s creative brilliance.

Short Fiction

Christerajet, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #64 — “The Old Casino” by J.B. Marlow...The author's award-winning story takes place over the course of a young man's life, looking at all the women he's loved and how the presence of a derelict building informs those relationships.

Click here to read more short fiction published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Book Excerpt

Book excerpt from Jazz with a Beat: Small Group Swing 1940 – 1960, by Tad Richards

Click here to read more book excerpts published on Jerry Jazz Musician


"Jazz Trio" by Samuel Dixon
A collection of jazz haiku, Vol. 2...The 19 poets included in this collection effectively share their reverence for jazz music and its culture with passion and brevity.

Jazz History Quiz #170

photo of Dexter Gordon by Brian McMillen
This bassist played with (among others) Charlie Parker, Erroll Garner, Nat King Cole and Dexter Gordon (pictured), was one of the earliest modern jazz tuba soloists, and was the only player to turn down offers to join both Duke Ellington’s Orchestra and the Louis Armstrong All-Stars. Who is he?


photo via Picryl.com
.“Community Bookshelf, #2"...a twice-yearly space where writers who have been published on Jerry Jazz Musician can share news about their recently authored books. This edition includes information about books published within the last six months or so…

Contributing Writers

Click the image to view the writers, poets and artists whose work has been published on Jerry Jazz Musician, and find links to their work

Coming Soon

An interview with Tad Richards, author of Jazz With a Beat: Small Group Swing, 1940 - 1960;  an interview with Laura Flam and Emily Sieu Liebowitz, authors of But Will You Love Me Tomorrow? An Oral History of the 60's Girl Groups;  a new collection of jazz poetry; a collection of jazz haiku; a new Jazz History Quiz; short fiction; poetry; photography; interviews; playlists; and lots more in the works...

Interview Archive

Eubie Blake
Click to view the complete 22 year archive of Jerry Jazz Musician interviews, including those recently published with Richard Carlin and Ken Bloom on Eubie Blake (pictured); Richard Brent Turner on jazz and Islam; Alyn Shipton on the art of jazz; Shawn Levy on the original queens of standup comedy; Travis Atria on the expatriate trumpeter Arthur Briggs; Kitt Shapiro on her life with her mother, Eartha Kitt; Will Friedwald on Nat King Cole; Wayne Enstice on the drummer Dottie Dodgion; the drummer Joe La Barbera on Bill Evans; Philip Clark on Dave Brubeck; Nicholas Buccola on James Baldwin and William F. Buckley; Ricky Riccardi on Louis Armstrong; Dan Morgenstern and Christian Sands on Erroll Garner; Maria Golia on Ornette Coleman.

Site Archive