Literature » Poetry

“Alabama: Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane, Matthew Garrison” — a poem by John McCluskey




Alabama: Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane, Matthew Garrison


                Yes, it is hot,
     night sweats beneath
     Spanish moss and the terror in trees
     now knowing no cover of darkness
     to greet a Sunday morning

     10:22 a.m.
                      under the stairs
                                     16th Street Baptist Church.

     “Three minutes”
     and the siren wails a ways away.

     There’s tension in the backbeat of cymbals and toms.
     Menacing bass line rises one step up in the deep wail
of the lowest register of hate

that God may drop his tear on Alabama’s motherless child.

          Yes, the sax finds the same full step rise,
     yea though it walks through the valley of the shadow of death,

     it soars in pain
     and hope

     that screams of night in broad daylight
     shall not follow us. All the days of our lives.

     The lights are out in Birmingham now; no one sleeps.

     Cymbals settle,
     sixteen-second run, then out.
     With sixteen-second cymbals, the music had begun.
     Magnificent dissonance and consonance soar

     beneath the wings
             of angels 4.




Photos taken by John McCluskey during the Jack DeJohnette Trio performance at Jazz Fest in New Orleans.  McCluskey writes that he  “stylized each to illustrate the beauty, color, and starkness of their rendition of John Coltrane’s “Alabama.”










John McCluskey works in the IT industry and lives in Connecticut with his family.  He has had poetry, short fiction, and photography published in various literary journals and anthologies including Quill & Parchment, The Red Booth Review, Inkwell, Lullwater Review, The Dirty Goat, The Griffin, One For The Road, and Cradle Songs: an Anthology of Poems on Motherhood (2013 International Book Award winner and one of 4 finalists for the NIEA). John’s poem “My Gray Child” from Cradle Songs was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and read at a poetry reading in Taos, New Mexico by actor Tony Huston