Literature » Poetry

“Grasping” — a poem by Fred Shaw

“Royal Street New Orleans,” by Michael Flohr






All those good times
might’ve been what Duke
had in mind when vamping

his silky-fingered B-flats,
letting Coltrane counter
until tenor notes cluster

close to the bone, their take
on “In a Sentimental Mood”
leaving me grasping at our dreamy past,

where each New Orleans morning,
having snorted our way
through another cocaine night,

waiting on Valium’s coldcock
in our digs above that drag-
queen bar near the Quarter’s edge.


Lately, my neck tingles
hearing Sarah Vaughan honey
the hi-fi, bending Duke’s tune

around Mundell Lowe’s crisp
guitar lines until the melody
makes me wistful for how we’d stagger

just before dawn, so eager to find
a pocket of deep sleep
among the disco bumping below,

our darkened bedroom glowing
with sit-com snagged
by rabbit-ears, the roaches

clicking behind walls
while canned laughter ran
over our skinny bodies.





Fred Shaw is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, and Carlow University, where he received his MFA.  He teaches writing and literature at Point Park University and Carlow University in Pittsburgh, PA.  He is the author of the chapbook, Argot (Finishing Line Press).  His poems have been published in 5AM, Poet Lore, Brilliant Corners, and Pittsburgh City Paper, where he currently reviews books. He is also the Poetry Editor for Pittsburgh Quarterly.  His poem, “Scraping Away” was recently chosen to be a featured work for the 2017 PA Public Poetry Project. In a parallel life, he has also worked in the service industry for the past twenty-five years. His poem, “Argot,” will be featured in an upcoming full-length documentary, Eating & Working & Eating & Working by filmmaker David Bernabo.  The film focuses on the lives of local service-industry workers. He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife and rescued hound dog.




John Coltrane and Duke Ellington play “In a Sentimental Mood”


Sarah Vaughan (with Mundell Lowe on guitar) sings “In a Sentimental Mood”