Poetry by David Waite

February 25th, 2009

Bessie Smith,

by Suzanne Cerny


What’s Ours

it may be that a long time ago, as a baby,
we chose the way we tasted sugar
felt cotton and heard Bessie Smith
at 3 a.m. in the back of a dream
sitting at a table below a yellow lamp.
we blinked our eyes then had to live
between those soft parentheses
drinking wine or tearing at someone’s heart
and nightly laying our bodies down
to see a piece surrendered
that made us sane, made us hunger
for the span of some girl’s back
peering behind her, humming a chorus.
there are hues of light we’ll never see,
too subtle the taste of pepper.

but maybe if we rest tonight
say these names, feel their weight,
as your thigh touches my thigh
we can drink that blood, taste that pepper
and sing Bessie Smith like no one can
lying together in the burning, lovely night.

“What’s Ours” was previously published in Coal Hill Review


Jack Lemmon in Love

we watch Jack Lemmon and we feel better
coming back from the bar after midnight;
he looks so young, black and white making him
never blonde but paper,
a bowler hat dark against his forehead;
he was never absurd
in that he would stumble or break a wall.
he had to walk
through a lobby in an evening dress,
try not to look stupid as he strained spaghetti
through the strings of a tennis racket.
he could hum,
he could dance;
his face never gave away the surprise,
the anxious path of fingers
he must have felt upon his skin.
we come home and we feel better,
there was a couple fighting in the corner,
they could all still remember me
with little marks of inaffection.
he’s there in Twelve Angry Men,
the remake and decades later,
and he’s asking them to think,
to stop before they’ve voted,
maybe kill the little Hispanic boy
with words they couldn’t have negated,
all the pain he must have felt
passing along the thin, brass key
to his apartment
or being in love,
her fingers soft through her dark hair,
all the pain she must be feeling;
she’s there when he gets home,
in bed and she’s swallowed
white pills from his own cabinet,
and all she wants to do is sleep;
we watch his face and its breaking,
black dress and she’s-
and all she wants to do is sleep.




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In This Issue

Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, talks about her book, and the complex life of her late husband.

Also in this issue…A new collection of jazz poetry; "On the Turntable," a new playlist of 22 recommended recordings by seven jazz artists; three new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Great Encounters”; several short stories; the photography of Veryl Oakland and Charles Ingham; a new Jazz History Quiz; and lots more…

On the Turntable

This month, a playlist of 22 recently released jazz recordings, including those by Chris Potter, Sons of Kemet, Stephan Crump, Brittany Anjou, Julian Lage, Joey DeFrancesco and Antonio Sanchez


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Gary Giddins, Jimmy Heath, Fred Hersch, Joe Hagan, Maxine Gordon, Neil Tesser, Tim Page, Veronica Swift and Marcus Strickland are among the 25 writers, musicians, poets, educators, and photographers who write about their favorite album cover art


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In 1964, along with the orchestra of arranger Lalo Schifrin (pictured), this flutist/alto sax player recorded one of the first “Jazz Masses,” and soon after studied transcendental meditation in India. He would eventually become well known as a composer of music for meditation. Who is he?

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Dexter Gordon tells the story of joining Louis Armstrong’s band in 1944, and how they enjoyed their intermission time.


In this edition of Veryl Oakland’s “Jazz in Available Light,” photographs of Red Garland, Dizzy Gillespie and Rahsaan Roland Kirk are featured.

Short Fiction

"Strings of Solace," a short story by Kimberly Parish Davis


Romare Bearden biographer Mary Schmidt Campbell discusses the life of the important 20th century American artist

Cover Stories with Paul Morris

In this edition, Paul writes about jazz album covers that offer glimpses into intriguing corners of the culture of the 1950’s

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In the previous issue

The question “What are some of your all-time favorite record album covers?” was posed via email to a small number of prominent and diverse people, and the responses of Gary Giddins, Jimmy Heath, Fred Hersch, Joe Hagan, Maxine Gordon, Tim Page, Veronica Swift and Marcus Strickland are among the 25 writers, musicians, poets, educators, and photographers who participated...Also, the publication of the winning story in our 50th Short Fiction contest; an interview with Romare Bearden biographer Mary Schmidt Campbell; a collection of jazz poetry; two new podcasts by Bob Hecht; the March edition of "On the Turntable," and lots more...Click here to be taken to the issue.

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