The Sunday Poem: “Carla Bley” – by Dan Brown

January 8th, 2023

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The Sunday Poem  is published weekly, and strives to include the poet reading their work.

Mr. Brown reads his poem at its conclusion.

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© Veryl Oakland

photo by Veryl Oakland

Carla Bley; 1979

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Carla Bley
………..(with a nod to Frank O’hara)

Linnea and I sat in Upstate Films, Rhinebeck NY
on an evening of whatever weather
waiting for the feature foreign or indie film

(which movie is unimportant)

we were early and sat eating popcorn slowly
trying to make it last until the movie started
a predilection from childhood when I
lived in the local theater on weekends
and was always way too early to make the popcorn last

a young woman perhaps a teenager
was still sweeping from the previous show
she stopped and walked to the upright piano
at stage center used for silent movies of Keaton and Chaplin

she began to play a Monk tune

(which tune I don’t remember)

she stumbled over some of the notes

(It didn’t matter which ones)

played with a tentative desire to reside someday within its mystery

this memory returned listening to an interview on youtube
of Carla Bley now mid-eighties saying she ran away from home
in her late teens and was a cigarette girl at Birdland
and a coat check girl at Basin St
where she soaked up in beer smell and Johnny Walker smoke
the great bygone bop and Basie big band of the fifties

while she sold packs of luckies and checked snow flecked coats
to people who would sit in their own little worlds
talking and laughing loudly

(enough about their gibberish)

or those nursing drinks who listened in rapt attention, as Carla did
while making change and giving out hanger numbers and none of them
her included knew the composer, arranger, bandleader, pianist
and dare I say humorist she would become

so whether she ever makes it or not I think well I heard this kid
without a name searching for her voice through fumbling thick fingers
when she was Upstate Films janitor playing unbalanced Monk

(which tune I don’t remember)

preceding probably one of the ten best movies of whatever year
perhaps academy award nominated maybe even an Oscar winner

(who cares)

on her way to getting whatever the tune happened to be
stylistically
straight.

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Listen to Dan Brown read “Carla Bley”

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Daniel Brown has loved jazz (and music in general) ever since he delved into his parents’ 78 collection as a child. He is a retired special education teacher who began writing as a senior. He always appreciates being published in a journal or anthology. His first poetry collection, Family Portraits in Verse, will be published in early 2023.

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Veryl Oakland is a photojournalist who devoted nearly thirty years in search of the great jazz musicians.  His  Jerry Jazz Musician  series, “Jazz in Available Light” – a collection of his photos and stories from his book of the same name – can be accessed by clicking here.

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Listen to the 2020 recording of Carla Bley performing “Life Goes On,” with Andy Sheppard (saxophone); and Steve Swallow (bass). [Universal Music Group]

 

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Click here  to view previous editions of  The Sunday Poem

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Click here  for information about how to submit your poetry

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