Poetry by Loraine Campbell

January 29th, 2008






Road to San Quentin

Written in hopeful protest of the execution of Tookie Williams — co-founder of the Crips and writer of children’s stories


The road to Giverny,
winter, 1885, by Claude
Monet, looks sad.
It looks like the
twisted road to San
Quentin, where an
execution is planned
before Christmas 2005.
Does the spindly tree
realize where it lives?
Is the golden castle —
San Quentin yellow —
Is the weight of death,
and the planning
thereof, crumbling the
crumbled foundation?
Have the birds fled
to where the oxygen
is more honest?
Does an owl linger
and whoo whoo and
remind us of who?
And what of us who
eat our meals in
our holiday homes
with wreaths of berries —
drops of red — and
sleigh bells like a
doctor’s pronouncement?
A stethoscope on the
Christmas tree — silver
and shiny — and ropes
of beads, and ropes
and ropes that twist
a weary past.
Are shoulders hunched
from some of us who
carry more than our
share — and are
we cracking?
Will the Governor kiss
his careful wife and wash
his hands for the news?
Will there be one
less fa-la and la-la
in the department
stores on December 13th?
Will the roasting
chestnuts explode
and fan the open fire?
Will the same old
Bethlehem star rise
and shine like a
broken arrow, and
will it point?
Will Frosty Jack
have a tear in his
eye, or will he
continue to nip?
Will the yuletide
carolers stop singing
at midnight, and will
a shadow pass like
wisps of a former life?
Angels will wing
like broken vacuums —
a constant hum
of sorrow.
We are creeping
under the shadow
of the buzzard’s grin.
There are touchstones
tottering on our
knickknack shelves,
and dark circles
are flapping.
When floods come
and arks sink
and animals go
two by two, will
they pray for us
and look back?








Scream that horn,
that John Coltrane,
sip my tripping
thinking brain,
that figuring,
that thought insane–
notes that tumble,
wax and wane.
Scribble, quibble
oft I thought,
from the Sunday
school I bought
two and two
makes good
and new,
and shiny thoughts
will shine me through
with triple cleft
and what to do,
notes laid out
like dream
and new.
Waterfalls still
hit the earth,
still gurgle in
a dripping birth.
I just need
a note or two,
I’m the lost
I never had,
gone from good
to almost bad!
Smile frozen,
almost sad,
almost dead,
but still not quite–
John Coltrane
with all my might!
Smoky bars
gave me my soul
and cigarettes that
smoked me whole,
a way to almost
get past go.


Share this:

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In this Issue

“The Jazz Photography Issue” features an interview with today’s most eminent jazz portrait photographer Carol Friedman, news from Michael Cuscuna about newly released Francis Wolff photos, as well as archived interviews with William Gottlieb, Herman Leonard, Lee Tanner, a piece on Milt Hinton, a new edition of photos from Veryl Oakland, and much more…

On the Turntable

This month, a playlist of 18 recently released jazz recordings by six artists -- Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano. Matt Brewer, Tom Harrell, Zela Margossian, and Aaron Burnett

Short Fiction

"Crossing the Ribbon" by Linnea Kellar is the winning story of the 51st Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest


Seventeen poets contribute to the Summer, 2019 collection of jazz poetry reflecting an array of energy, emotion and improvisation

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

Pressed for All Time

In an excerpt from his book Pressed for All Time, Michael Jarrett interviews producer John Snyder about the experience of working with Ornette Coleman at the time of his 1977 album Dancing in Your Head


“Charles Ingham’s Jazz Narratives” — a continuing series


Poetry by John Stupp and Michael L. Newell


Jerry Jazz Musician regularly publishes a series of posts featuring excerpts of the photography and stories/captions found in Jazz in Available Light by Veryl Oakland. In this edition, Mr. Oakland's photographs and stories feature Art Pepper, Pat Martino and Joe Williams.


Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, discusses her late husband’s complex, fascinating life.

Short Fiction

“A Viennese Tale,” a story by Matias Travieso-Diaz, was a finalist in our recently concluded 51st Short Fiction Contest.

In the previous issue

Michael Cuscuna, Mosaic Records co-founder, is interviewed about his successful career as a jazz producer, discographer, and entrepreneur...

Coming Soon

An interview with Nate Chinen, director of editorial content at WBGO Radio, former New York Times jazz writer, and the author of Playing Changes: Jazz in the New Century.

Contributing writers

Site Archive