Thursday, June 26, 2014

Poems about Jazz: Playlist for June 20, 2014

El Segundo Blues
by Diane Wakoski
                                                            for Penny Perry

          Bill Evans’ jazz piano, like those
butterflies, a blue wafting
mass, made up of small fingering
delicacies, flutters into
my old ears, returns me to smears of beach drift
and sea foam.  I hold them close, like scraps of lace,
or broken shells.

Child Diane.  I caught small-winged, tiny, grey-black-white-
and orange patterned butterflies
that lit on my childhood lantana hedge but,
though I now realize we lived close to the El Segundo Blue’s
ecosystem, I suspect
my butterflies were a different
California species,
since I never saw any interior blue wings,
and the male El Segundos
have them. 

Lonely Diane.  Had I seen
the Blues would I have felt entitled
to beauty, not
needing inadvertently
to kill it? 

What if I had followed
the lane past the lantana hedge all the way down beyond
The King’s Highway, El
Camino Real, would I have discovered
how bound I was? Bound by my mother’s man-less life?
Wondering always about acceptance.
If I had followed my butterflies down the lane,
down from our house,
down beyond The Kings Highway, as 101
was first named, would it have led me
to an underworld, all of men?  Or boys?  Perhaps
Peter Pan and other Lost Boys?
Some male enclave, a balance against the all-female
world of my mother, my sister, and me?  Would there have been
the arm of a bayou winding out to open water
to embrace a ship in its curve, an old clipper with masts and rigging?
Pirates, near the land where Disneyland would later be built?

It has always been so hard for me to like women.  The world of women
seemed like prison to me, grey as the wing-interiors of the
female El Segundo Blue.  And I might as well
say right now that I never liked Tinker Bell. 
She was a mean girl and, in real life, she would have been
a cheer leader.  If I had wandered in, she would
have buzzed me, turning me away.  I might
have fought her but just then
--I think—
a cloud of migrating El Segundo Blues
might have appeared, whirling back up the lane from which I had come,
and as always,
I would have followed them, never finding the lost boys,
would have followed the indigo wings,
dizzy with frittering blue, their male beauty calling me louder
than any lost boy,
as they swirled up Russell Lane,
back to my familiar
neighborhood, heading to my old lantana hedge
with its little cushions of variegated lavender and white florets.

There, the swarm would have settled – an apron, a patch,
a flag of sapphire
reminding me of magic,
how it always harbors the unknown.  The
music of Bill Evans, leading me also,
with his swirl of cascading phrases, his male authority of
blue encounter, his hand replacing mine
on the keyboard.  Grazing in buckwheat, I long
to feel surrounded by recognition’s fizz,
a man’s touch that
always surprises me -- a scrap
of blue wing on the white gravel driveway.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: You Must Believe in Spring (Michel Legrand) performed by Bill Evans

Jazz in Paris

by Jennifer Grotz

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Ne Me Quitte Pas, performed by Nina Simone


by Billy Collins

You are so beautiful and I am a fool
to be in love with you
is a theme that keeps coming up
in songs and poems.
There seems to be no room for variation.
I have never heard anyone sing
I am so beautiful
and you are a fool to be in love with me,
even though this notion has surely
crossed the minds of women and men alike.
You are so beautiful, too bad you are a fool
is another one you don't hear.
Or, you are a fool to consider me beautiful.
That one you will never hear, guaranteed.

For no particular reason this afternoon
I am listening to Johnny Hartman
whose dark voice can curl around
the concepts on love, beauty, and foolishness
like no one else's can.
It feels like smoke curling up from a cigarette
someone left burning on a baby grand piano
around three o'clock in the morning;
smoke that billows up into the bright lights
while out there in the darkness
some of the beautiful fools have gathered
around little tables to listen,
some with their eyes closed,
others leaning forward into the music
as if it were holding them up,
or twirling the loose ice in a glass,
slipping by degrees into a rhythmic dream.

Yes, there is all this foolish beauty,
borne beyond midnight,
that has no desire to go home,
especially now when everyone in the room
is watching the large man with the tenor sax
that hangs from his neck like a golden fish.
He moves forward to the edge of the stage
and hands the instrument down to me
and nods that I should play.
So I put the mouthpiece to my lips
and blow into it with all my living breath.
We are all so foolish,
my long bebop solo begins by saying,
so damn foolish
we have become beautiful without even knowing it.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: I See Your Face Before Me, performed by Johnny Hartman      


Almost Blue
by Mark Doty

Chet Baker, 1929-1988

If Hart Crane played trumpet
he’d sound like you, your horn’s dark city
miraculous and broken over and over,
scale-shimmered, every harbor-flung hour
and salt-span of cabled longing,
every waterfront, the night-lovers’ rendezvous.
This is the entrance
to the city of you, sleep’s hellgate,
and two weeks before the casual relinquishment
of your hold — light needling
on the canal’s gleaming haze
and the buds blaring like horns –
two weeks before the end, Chet,
and you’re playing like anything,
singing stay little valentine

and taking so long there are worlds sinking
between the notes, this exhalation
no longer a voice but a rush of air,
brutal, from the tunnels under the river,
the barges’ late whistles you only hear
when the traffic’s stilled
by snow, a city hushed and
distilled into one rush of breath,
yours, into the microphone
and the ear of that girl
in the leopard-print scarf,
one long kiss begun on the highway
and carried on dangerously,
the Thunderbird veering
on the coast road: glamor
of a perfectly splayed fender,
dazzling lipstick, a little pearl of junk,
some stretch of road breathless
and traveled into … Whoever she is
she’s the other coast of you,
and just beyond the bridge into the city’s
long amalgam of ardor and indifference
is lit like a votive
then blown out. Too many rooms unrented
in this residential hotel,
and you don’t want to know
why they’re making that noise in the hall;
you’re going to wake up in any one of the
how many ten thousand
locations of trouble and longing
going out of business forever everything must go
wake up and start wanting.
It’s so much better when you don’t want:
nothing falls then, nothing lost
but sleep and who wanted that
in the pearl this suspended world is,
in the warm suspension and glaze
of this song everything stays up
almost forever in the long
glide sung into the vein,
one note held almost impossibly
almost blue and the lyric takes so long
to open, a little blood
blooming: there’s no love song finer
but how strange the change
from major to minor
every time
we say goodbye

and you leaning into that warm
haze from the window, Amsterdam,
late afternoon glimmer
a blur of buds

breathing in the lindens
and you let go and why not

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: My Funny Valentine performed by Chet Baker

Blue in Green
by Grace Schulman  

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Blue in Green, performed by Miles Davis

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