Trading Fours, with Douglas Cole, No. 5: “The Sunset and the Mockingbird Suite” (in honor of Tommy Flanagan)

April 14th, 2022

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

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The Sunset and the Mockingbird Suite
-in honor of Tommy Flanagan

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Editor’s Note…Mr. Cole’s suite consists of eight poems, all interpretations from songs on pianist Tommy Flanagan’s album Sunset and the Mockingbird Suite, which was recorded live at New York’s Village Vanguard in 1997.  

Every song is available for listening prior to the poem (via YouTube and courtesy of Universal Music Group), and following each poem, readers can hear the poet reciting his work.

On the recordings, Flanagan is accompanied by bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash.

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Listen to “Birdsong” (written by Thad Jones)

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Birdsong

You hear him tapping into that bebop speed
scaling high and light and fast
a little reference to salt peanuts there
cabaret codes pecking through the veil
and they come in quick those players
you might say frantic all over the branches
on and off and up and around to another perch
eyeing thisway thatway bright aware and awake
seeing tenfold frames per second
seeing in rapid-fire glance and then again airborne
fast in one two three wingbeats boom-swish
over and out through the whicker trees
and the shadow puzzle garden maze like rockets
like kamikazes of pure joy saying yes that’s right
crushing it in this early morning daylight
that song code trajectory traveling swift
out of nowhere and then swoop right by my ear
over bell curve juniper bush and on the way on

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Listen to the poet read “Birdsong”

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Listen to “The Sunset and the Mockingbird” (written by Duke Ellington)

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Sunset and the Mockingbird

The light makes a sound
it’s almost a question
sounds taking shape as shade as branch
as leaf waving hello
could sky be any more
even clouds want to say something
in the language of puff and curve
stack plume and scatter no mistaking
those two crows partnered for life
the back door open the back yards
and the sea coming in warm wind
you can almost hear the brush hit the air
a fence line here a garden path
a bird feeder swaying as the sparrow takes off
the hills warm as you coming through the gate
roll of the beach waves right behind your feet

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Listen to the poet read “Sunset and the Mockingbird”

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Listen to “With Malice Toward None” (written by Tom McIntosh)

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With Malice Toward None

Hey it’s good to see you again I wasn’t sure you’d show
sit down take off your coat it’s snowing hard out there
don’t I know it can I buy you a drink you haven’t changed a bit
I was just thinking thinking back is another kind of skipping ahead
but hey spring is around the corner we can trade in
these flakes for some petals I hope you’ll stick around
no I didn’t think I’d ever see you again see
I had more or less slid over to the observation deck
though I don’t want you to think I wasn’t feeling it
‘cause I was feeling it light that sunlight overall
and walking in it with nothing I have to do but be here
right now I want to break out a top hat and cane
I want to keep running before it all catches up with me again
because we’re here for this freedom to be in light
even if there is a tiger out there or an elf riding down
the alley with one foot on the seat and arms out wide
that’s the kind of thing I think of on a winter night like this
when I’m feeling top of the world because I ran into you
and in the whole rolling show we had this moment together
and hasn’t it been a ceremony hearing that piano player play

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Listen to the poet read “With Malice Toward None”

 

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Listen to “Let’s” (written by Thad Jones)

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Let’s

Gotta get rent
gotta get out
hustle put on the face
keep an eye out
here it comes

I don’t remember that house
was that ship’s bell there a moment ago
questions no one should have to answer

The birds are back
the bats are back
the afternoon sits flat on its back
over beach rollers white
leaping on shore
to offer you a drink

Hear the deep beat clams chatting
stand in one spot too long
and you’ll disappear for good

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Listen to the poet read “Let’s”

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Listen to “I Waited For You,” written by Gil Fuller

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I Waited for You

One of those fog nights
small crowd along the beach
lights curved along the sound
quiet dark shore
feels like I’m hiding out
keeping the fire going
keeping the music going
but I’m not completely alone
just alone for now
that faint rain coming down
a moment in the porch light
flashing then out
and imagine I’m smoking a cigar
while you’re at it some Scotch
a candle going on the kitchen counter

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Listen to the poet read “I Waited For You”

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Listen to “Tin Tin Deo” (written by Gil Fuller)

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Tin Tin Deo

The Coopers hawk crow sized round tail
has the neighbor’s dog going nuts
we’re all on high alert
in old England the only birds called Hawks were
the bird-killing diurnal birds of prey
the colonists who settled here applied the name hawk
to almost all the day-flying raptors
so that now names like Marsh-hawk Duck-hawk
Pigeon-hawk Sparrow-hawk yet still
I prefer Harrier Peregrine Merlin and Kestrel
from Mexico to New Haven from New Jersey
to Portland Oregon hunting the river swamps
and I want to say I hear a little Caravan
in that ferocious time

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Listen to the poet read “Tin Tin Deo”

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Listen to “The Balanced Scales/The Cupbearers” (written by Tom McIntosh)

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The Balanced Scales the Cupbearers

Now we’re home warm spring night
hardly a sound hardly a soul out there
though I might catch a glimpse
and I’m thinking about every one of you
believe it or not it’s spring after all
and the clouds are on the crawl
you with your friends headed back to the house
you watching the sun over Whidbey Island
Deception Pass and that current no one gets past
and why not swing a little take in that warm light
warm cup of light to drink

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Listen to the poet read “The Balanced Scales the Cupbearers”

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Listen to “Goodnight My Love” (written by Harry Revel)

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Goodnight My Love

A little edgy a little tired
can’t help but those thoughts go back
it’s a lifetime between standing up and lying flat
but I’ve still got a spring in my step
I can see through my closed eyes

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Listen to the poet read “Goodnight My Love”

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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. Click here to visit his website..

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