Poetry by Michael L. Newell

November 3rd, 2015





Early Miles was all vowel,
a blue, black, ebony sweep,
the sound of life lived deeply
as a diver can dive into
bottomless water.

Bottomless the water
a diver can dive into,
the sound of life lived deeply,
a blue, black, ebony sweep,
early Miles was all vowel.

The sound of life lived deeply,
a blue, black, ebony sweep
a diver can dive into,
early Miles was all vowel,
bottomless the water.

A blue, black, ebony sweep,
early Miles was all vowel,
bottomless the water —
the sound of life lived deeply
a diver can dive into.

A diver can dive into
a blue, black, ebony sweep:
bottomless water, early Miles
was all vowel, the sound
of life lived deeply.

First published in A Stranger to the Land (Garden Street Press, 1997)


the pain contained within those
seemingly effortless sounds
lifts us from our couches
to applaud years
after the event

the tone arches stretches slinks struts
leaps to fence tops and deftly prances
the length of a city block

moonlight flashes off a switchblade
and a world freezes awaiting
the spurt and stain of red

honey slides slowly
golden and thick
from a horn we slide
deeper into seats
to rediscover love

when silence is starkly
once again upon us
we don’t move hoping
to hear even the faintest
of echoes lingering

eventually we remember
to breathe

First published in A Stranger to the Land (Garden Street Press, 1997)


(Dexter Gordon with the Junior Mance Trio)

Dexter Gordon’s sax spills sound
the epitome of urbane sophistication,
as if he had a glass of wine in hand, chatting
with the most beautiful of women, his voice

smooth as the finest honey while
Junior Mance and his group provide
a steady foundation for this conversation
between musicians, audience,

and some ideal room filled with wine,
roses, candelabras creating a world
of muted luring light, and dancers feather light
on their feet floating through long nights;

the sax falls silent for a time, and Mance’s
piano comments approvingly while adding
a few thoughts on the conversation thus far,
and the bass and drums steadily keep

the conversation rooted; the sax reenters
with a long sweep of sound (reminiscent
of blood red theatre curtains opening)
revealing a heart alive and in love and

so very certain of beauty and hope and need,
and slowly winds to a finish suggestive
of a waterfall tumbling into a safe pool,
rejoined by piano, drum, and bass

in a majestic flourish of beauty,
hope, majesty, and a promise and
demonstration that an ideal world
can exist, even if only for a brief time.



Breath across
reeds, rasps:

note evolving
into notes, a chain —

viral, geometric,
spiraling into constellations.

Open bedroom
windows — SEE! HEAR!

Hope’s hues
drape the living,

spread honey
to the hips.

First published in A Stranger to the Land (Garden Street Press, 1997)



Today the trees
in constant motion, you’ve
seen the same thing
at cocktail parties, in restaurants,
on the beach, bodies
moving to the breath
of the world, do wop,
classical, and jazz;

and all afternoon, I hung
around the park
listening to the clear
running water of eucalyptus
in full swing and sway,
imagining a tenor sax in
the hands of say, Coleman Hawkins,
jamming with the wind and leaves.


There are no
words which flow
with the riprap cutback
snapping pop and roar of bebop
stutter stomping through a blue-black
red-hot bluesy night filled with steamy
sax and pungent plunging trumpet
c’mon baby dive deep into the
sound moan wail and muted
sigh such sigh(t)s and
sounds make a world
spin upside down



A feathery

all day it swarmed
until our thoughts

were gusts of white
icy shavings

each flake an event
sculpted on air

jazzy mobiles
freeform and

cool as a Miles
Davis solo.




Drive that engine, all eight
cylinders, ripping down the open
road faster than can be
clocked, hurricane in our faces,
thunder from the wheels, open
throated, full voiced whole body
engaged mind unleashed to soar
all night long on rims
which can’t be broke, spokes
flashing ever faster towards dawn…





ripple them keys with the right hand Mr. Silver
while the left drones a steady beat beneath

it’s near the end of the tune and the piano has taken over
and is musing about life about parting about loss

the drummer taps out exclamation points
the bass walks a straight line with a bounce and a hop

here come the horns singing about hope of life
round the corner just down the block next door

they know about pain wedded to joy
loss blended with a dram of the world’s beauty

say goodbye to drudgery say goodbye to the ordinary
slip and slide side to side and say hello to the world

a new kind of sayonara a new kind of parting
where the future’s promise dances alongside




(for Michael “Big Daddy” Citrino)


toss them random feet round the stage
feel their rage for life sweet swirling life
arms flailing hips honey coated

bees in the knees stuttering a rhythm
shoulders rambling front and back
jacked up on the drug of music

head slowly bops its own pace
no race with the rest of the body
to each limb its own time and space

the band is crackling hot
cooking was never so spicy before
this barbecue will ignite into flame

at any moment the fire marshal will arrive
to close the joint jump and jam as long
as the place stays open says I says she

ride the tiger ride it all night long
I hear a voice in crescendo wailing in free
harmony with the trumpet blast off is near fly baby fly




Michael L. Newell was a long time expatriate teacher (over twenty years) who has recently retired to coastal Oregon after living in thirteen other countries on five continents. He has also lived in thirteen of the United States. His work has been published in, among other places, Aethlon: The Journal of Sports Literature, Bellowing Ark, Culture Counter, Ship of Fools, Lilliput Review, and Rattle. He has had a number of books and chapbooks published. Among them are Traveling without Compass or Map (Bellowing Ark Press), A Long Time Traveling, Seeking Shelter, and Collision Course (all from Four Sep Press).


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5 comments on “Poetry by Michael L. Newell”

  1. Nice one, Michael. I like the laid back feeling of that first one. The contrast of crowds in stanza one and solitude in stanza 2 suggests the diversity of jazz –

  2. Nice one, Michael. I like the laid back feeling of that first one. The contrast of crowds in stanza one and solitude in stanza 2 suggests the diversity of jazz –

  3. Pretty incredible to craft such a rhythmic feast of syllables into a visual form all the while like a drum has driven the whole thing home.

  4. Pretty incredible to craft such a rhythmic feast of syllables into a visual form all the while like a drum has driven the whole thing home.

  5. at any moment the fire marshal will arrive
    to close the joint jump and jam as long
    as the place stays open says I says she…
    There have indeed been moments like that in playing music with others, even occasionally puffing along with a CD. I am honored that one of these small moments made enough of an impression to have me in such ranks as I see in your poetry! What grace has given!

    Michael (Fat Mike) Citrino

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