Literature » Poetry

“Acquiring Taste” — a poem by Michael L. Newell


Ignorant of jazz in 1965, I sit quietly reading
(perched on my bunk at Clark AFB)
a short story by John Updike when suddenly
the barracks explodes with a mighty sound;
Joe Williams at Newport Jazz Festival 1963
sails through “Roll’em Pete” riding
a mighty wind created by Zoot Sims,
Coleman Hawkins, Clark Terry,
Ben Webster, Thad Jones, Bob Cranshaw,
Mickey Roker, Howard McGhee,
and a smoking hot Junior Mance; I am
swept to my feet and search
for the fountainhead of this driving,
exploding, exuberant sound that makes
my feet, arms, and body dance as I search
for what I am hearing; at the other end
of the barracks I find half a dozen
African-American airmen playing cards,
heads bobbing, smiles on their faces,
who greet me with a laugh and ask,
“What’s got you so excited, Deke?”
I ask what is on the record player.
They chuckle and say, “That’s the blues
meets jazz.  Take a seat, listen, learn.”
And I did.
Michael L. Newell is a retired secondary school English/Theatre teacher who has lived one-third of his life abroad on five continents.  He is passionate about a wide range of music, jazz being a particular favorite.  He now lives on the south-central Oregon coast.