“The Birth of Jazz” — a poem by Russell MacClaren



Syncopated sounds
mingle in bayous,
roll with Mississippi currents,
splash in Lake Pontchartrain.
The haunting melody
sleeps in pine forests,
nestles in the cypress,
sways with willows,
stands with oaks.
Alternating tempos
swim on ‘gator tails,
wade delta inlets
on great blue heron legs,
slither with snakes,
splash among mullet.
Rhythm-free as a tarpon-
soars with eagles,
wails on the hurricane.

Centuries of Spanish and French
searched in vain
to capture the elusive music.
Biding its own time,
the song
would pound through lowlands
on throbbing native drums,
echo around cotton fields
from soulful Negro lungs,
hide in marsh channels
to sail with cutthroat pirates,
dance in one room houseboats
on lively Cajun fiddles.

Conjured in voodoo hearts,
forged in wrought iron,
caught by steel-eyed fishermen,
brought to Storyville brothels,
French Quarter bars
and Dixieland dance halls,
a new sound is born.
The land and its people
cry the blues,
create the miracle
of Jazz!


Read more poetry by Russell MacClaren