Trading Fours, with Douglas Cole, No. 18: “The Sermon”

November 29th, 2023

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Trading Fours with Douglas Cole is an occasional series of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film.

 A recording of Mr. Cole reading his work is found at the conclusion of the poem.

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The Sermon

Hammers in a construction site
sound like a band warming up,
weird solos by a bunch of drummers.
Jimmy Smith comes down draped in groove,
sermonizing your stride,
clouds chest-out like they know something.
A man standing in front of a house,
shouting, I got nothing from you!
I took nothing! The door,
the dead light gold on the windowpanes,
someone inside I can’t see,
who’s supposed to be hearing all this?
Who’s he talking to?

Swimmers and duck walkers,
sky saying, I’ve got an eye on you.
Close your mouth or the flies get in.
Go to the ocean and get your blessing
because this is necessarily so.
Flight of the wasp, flight of the gull,
the big-wing eagle with its roost on 58th,
sundowners in their yards,
the big iron ocean at their eyes,
steady green ferry headed into Winslow.

The white tooth of mount Adams,
the blue sea cat claws coming in
from the deadpan horizon,
glint of the somewhere, the out there,
come to rattle the leaves, kick you off course,
set you loose, set you free
when you couldn’t see you walked on water,
when you stuck your thumbs
through the driftwood sockets
and put it on the sun saying go and go,
by and by on the beach of eternity,
lean-tos in the grass
and the king tide coming for all of us.

It’s Sunday after all,
and you’ve come through a squall,
a short-term malaise—
no medical attention necessary
but the voice inside going
with a swing stride.

Find the secret locker,
the secret key opening a door
behind a rack of coats,
now a smooth club scene
with six on the bandstand,
while outside the big rain
pummels the street.

Floors of black sticky tar,
wonder hash minds in the void
dark-amazed by the sounds.
Brian played with him
back in the day, said, he was good,
but he never paid us.
Sunday don’t care about Monday,
so roll another timetable,
let’s binge the good groove all day,
with the wind wisp-curling
in that time-warping way.

 

 

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Listen to Douglas Cole read “The Sermon”

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Listen to the 1958 recording of Jimmy Smith playing “The Sermon”, with Smith (organ);  Lee Morgan (trumpet); Kenny Burrell (guitar); Lou Donaldson (alto saxophone); Tina Brooks (tenor saxophone); and Art Blakey (drums).  [Universal Music Group]

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photo by Jenn Merritt

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Douglas Cole has published six collections of poetry and The White Field, winner of the American Fiction Award. His work has appeared in several anthologies as well as journals such as The Chicago Quarterly Review, Poetry International, The Galway Review, Bitter Oleander, Chiron, Louisiana Literature, Slipstream, as well Spanish translations of work (translated by Maria Del Castillo Sucerquia) in La Cabra Montes. He is a regular contributor to Mythaixs, an online journal, where in addition to his fiction and essays, his interviews with notable writers, artists and musicians such as Daniel Wallace (Big Fish), Darcy Steinke (Suicide Blond, Flash Count Diary) and Tim Reynolds (T3 and The Dave Matthews Band) have been popular contributions. He has been nominated twice for a Pushcart and Best of the Net and received the Leslie Hunt Memorial Prize in Poetry. He lives and teaches in Seattle, Washington.

Douglas’ poem, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Kind of Blue,” published as part of his “Trading Fours” series, was nominated for the XLVIII Pushcart Prize

Click here to visit his website.

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The poet’s collection, The Blue Island

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

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Click here to read The Sunday Poem

Click here to learn how to submit your poetry or short fiction

Click here to subscribe to the Jerry Jazz Musician newsletter

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