Poetry by Michael Keshigian

April 1st, 2013



He stood alone on the small stage
in front of the dance floor at the club
with his saxophone in hand,
spying hundreds of eyeballs
that glowed
the reflection of spotlights,
all anticipating
an inspired musical improvisation.
But his sweaty palms keenly conspired
to inhibit his deliverance
as foot soldiers crossed his tongue,
kicking up the sand
in his arid mouth,
clogging the crucial input
of his salivary glands
which craved the cascading fountain
at the rear of the hall.
Frenzied thoughts floated in his head
and instigated a breathlessness
that rebounded rhythmically
off the acoustical tile behind him.
He feared that this hoax
as a soloist and performer
would soon be unveiled.
He dallied with the downbeat
as the audience coughed,
excruciating moments tensed
his trembling fingers.
Then, as if by instinct, he inhaled
a mammoth gasp
that chased away the uncertainty
while his expanding diaphragm
prompted velocity, vibration then sound,
a passionate, soothing sound
that filled the golden horn
as his jumbled spirit ascended off the floor.



There’s not just one, it depends on the style,
the performer and his instrument.
Like the one that’s the favorite
of trumpet players, you know,
the one with the crumpled face
and the pained look of focus
just before he blasts high C.
Every note in the upper range
becomes a new source of agony.
Then there’s the face
of philosophical perplexity,
the one used by trombone players
when they reach higher than they should,
eyebrows lifted against the hairline,
chin extended and tucked into the throat,
usually during a technical lick in numerous positions.
Of course, there’s the sax players
and their ballads, eyelids nearly closed,
head in a languorous droop
that sometimes lolls back
and swivels side to side
to help kick in an arousing vibrato.
And then the drummer
with his classic wild man look,
crazy faced with the fixed grin
and scary stare, like he’s about
to lurch off his seat, unlike
the piano player, the aristocrat
with his proud, confident posture,
convinced that for the next few hours
he and his ensemble own your soul,
how he notices you’ve immersed yourself
in the excitement and emotion of the music,
with your intense squint and locked grin,
that empathetic grimace
especially obvious when your head bobs feverishly
in a contagious yet effusive sign of approval.



Exhale a powerful breath
into its mouthpiece
and the gentle vibrations
upon its reed
create a timbre
which resonates
through the polished
ebony tube
and under fingers
deftly caressing
dull silver keys,
an audible enchantment
begins to spiral
into an array of colors
and transports body and mind
beyond the boundaries
of daily turmoil
to cure the soul of ills
and deliver a message
from the heart.



Barefoot in white slacks
and her husband’s sweater,
she plays the piano most seriously,
bungling Mozart with a grimace
then a grin,
the lamplight
flickered unnoticed upon her fingers.

The field from where her progeny
once thrived has withered,
grown voices and opinions
have fled the confines of the arena
where music,
like a tranquilized tiger,
swerves again.

Her foot presses pedals,
fingernails carelessly flit keys,
and in her womb
a musician is conceived.
The house is no longer empty,
half full with sound,
she nourishes herself.



His fingers blur
grenedilla wood
and improvises
ebony with silver
as the sweet colors
of a clarion call
pulsate the room
with a staggered step
and the rhythm
gets your body swaying
and fingers tapping
to the incantations
from his black magic wand
pointed skyward
like a unicorn’s horn
even the dim lights bop
to the two beat bounce
on the dark dance floor
while the Dixieland man
lost in his world
excites your soul.

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 Bekzat Tasmagambetov/via Pexels
"The Lady Sings" - by Michael Keshigian

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.


The Marvelettes/via Wikimedia Commons
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...Little is known of the lives and challenges many of the young Black women who made up the Girl Groups of the ‘60’s faced while performing during an era rife with racism, sexism, and music industry corruption. The authors discuss their book’s mission to provide the artists an opportunity to voice their experiences so crucial to the evolution of popular music.

Book Excerpt

An excerpt from Emily Jon Tobias’ MONARCH: Stories, and a reflection on our friendship


photo of Archie Shepp by Giovanni Piesco
The Photographs of Giovanni Piesco: Archie Shepp...photos of the legendary saxophonist (and his rhythm section for the evening), taken at Amsterdam's Bimhuis on May 13, 2001.


The cover to Joni Mitchell's 1976 album Hejira [Asylum]; photo by Norman Seeff
“Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada” – a poem (for Joni Mitchell) by Juan Mobili

Click here to read more poetry published in Jerry Jazz Musician

Calling All Poets!

News about a Jerry Jazz Musician printed jazz poetry anthology, and information about submitting your poetry for consideration

Short Fiction

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #65 — “Ballad” by Lúcia Leão...The author’s award-winning story is about the power of connections – between father and child, music and art, and the past, present and future.

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


photo of Louis Jordan by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Interview with Tad Richards, author of Jazz With a Beat: Small Group Swing, 1940 – 1960...Richards makes the case that small group swing players like Illinois Jacquet, Louis Jordan (pictured) and Big Jay McNeely played a legitimate jazz that was a more pleasing listening experience to the Black community than the bebop of Parker, Dizzy, and Monk. It is a fascinating era, filled with major figures and events, and centered on a rigorous debate that continues to this day – is small group swing “real jazz?”


Sonny Rollins' 1957 pianoless trio recording "Way Out West"
“The Pianoless Tradition in Modern Jazz” – a playlist by Bob Hecht...an extensive playlist built around examples of prominent pianoless modern jazz.


Excerpts from David Rife’s Jazz Fiction: Take Two – (Vol. 1)...A substantial number of novels and stories with jazz music as a component of the story have been published over the years, and the scholar David J. Rife has written short essay/reviews of them.  In this initial edition featuring his story essays/reviews, Rife writes about three novels that explore challenges of the mother/daughter relationship.

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

The cover of Wayne Shorter's 2018 Blue Note album "Emanon"
Trading Fours, with Douglas Cole, No. 20: “Notes on Genius...This edition of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film is written in response to the music of Wayne Shorter.

Click here to read previous editions of Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

In Memoriam

Hans Bernhard (Schnobby), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
“Remembering Joe Pass: Versatile Jazz Guitar Virtuoso” – by Kenneth Parsons...On the 30th anniversary of the guitarist Joe Pass’ death, Kenneth Parsons reminds readers of his brilliant career

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


painting by Vaino Kunnas
Jazz…in eight poems...A myriad of styles and experiences displayed in eight thoughtful, provocative poems…

Jazz History Quiz #172

photo of Teddy Wilson by William Gottlieb
Teddy Wilson once said this about a fellow jazz pianist:

“That man had the most phenomenal musical gifts I’ve ever heard. He was miraculous. It’s like someone hitting a home run every time he picks up a bat. We became such fast friends that I was allowed to interrupt him anytime he was playing at the house parties in Toledo we used to make every night. When I asked him, he would stop and replay a passage very slowly, showing me the fingering on some of those runs of his. You just couldn’t figure them out by ear at the tempo he played them.”

Who is the pianist he is describing?


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

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