Literature » Poetry

“Jazz” — a poem by William Chene

Abstract Jazz Musicians Painting,” by Meyer Tannenbaum

 

 

JAZZ

Somewhere between the wide open spaces
And those tiny, secret places in the heart,
The sound of nursery rhymes and temple chimes
Mingle with incense and nonsense
Until even the air has to smile.
That’s where you’ll find me, in my hiding place,
Making up rhymes and trying to keep time
To the pace of the tick tock tick of a million clocks,
All running at different licks, telling different times.
Each one an event in my life, a birth or a death…
It’s hard to get the meter right when the passing of time
Is split just two ways between day and night
And I am like a river of words that keeps getting lost
In those forgotten cemeteries and back water tributaries
That run so deeply through my soul.

Once, in a dream someone stole from sleep and gave to me,
A child asked me, “What is jazz?”
And suddenly I wake up sitting on a hill in Tibet with the Dali Lama.
He smiles and looks on as a long line of Buddhist monks
March single file wearing cowboy boots
And bright orange suits of the latest style.
And all the while, there is a thick pushy wind.
It makes a golden baritone sax begin
To sing its song of long and low strung out notes.
They seem to randomly float but still ring true
While extended chords hang in the air like sweet perfume.

And then, from nowhere comes a random, driving, rhythm sound
As the back beat races like a pounding heart
With its hand slapping bass
And its drums in your face and you know right from the start
It’s full of wisdom and pain, with a sound so cool
Even John Coltrane would have to smile and say, “Yeah, that’s ok”.
Cause no one can touch this beat
By just snapping their fingers or tapping their feet,
You see, jazz is a different kind of pain
It hurts like the blues but doesn’t ever complain
And nobody can tell you how or why
Because the words never come out the same. Might as well try counting fireflies in a jar
Till you think you know how many there are…
Or wait till that line of be-bop Buddhists finally come home
Lured by Zen poems and nursery rhymes
To my hiding place where the sacred chimes
Always play at ¾ time to the sound of a high hat symbol
Made of brass and silk that whispers to the world
“I always loved you”, as the sound of temple bells
Play softly, behind a music that never tells.

 

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William Chene is currently retired, and although his career background was in mechanical engineering, he also studied creative writing at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.  He has written humorous fiction, spoken word poetry and contemporary poetry for many years, and has published Vision of a New Past: Poems About America (Final Thursday Press at University of Iowa), a book of slam poetry.