Poetry by Joshua Michael Stewart

April 9th, 2010

 

 

 

 

DAVE BRUBECK

 

You can hear the youth of his heart
in the rhythmic pouncing of his block
chords. He’s a kitten when it comes
to his ball of twine. He’s in his ninetieth

year, but that’s not to say his melodies
are arthritic or his left hand falls asleep
in mid-conversation with the right.
The felt-tipped hammers drive each note

into their surefooted place. Harmonies shift,
easy as sunlight progressing across the carpet.
Wisdom’s intertwined with overtones
floating above the whole of music,

and he’s in time with his complete being,
his strengths and weaknesses syncopated
within one opus, the life-energy of jazz.
This is what I hear as I try to tune

myself, questioning my own offbeat
rhythms. Now I know what key I’m in,
what scales I’m going to play.
Tonight, I’ll sleep like a pillow.

 

 

 

VINTAGE GRAY

 

The morning glory —
another thing
that will never be my friend.
— Basho

Rain has a way of darkening the bark on trees,
deepening the wood cracks in fences.
Grass appears softer, envious of clouds
that tease with their rootlessness,
their promise of travel and a good night’s sleep.
Normally, I’d have a little Johnny Hodges
playing in the background or Casablanca
splashing silvery-blue against a wall,
but today I’m listening to a vintage radio
broadcast: Bing Crosby banters with Jack Teagarden,
the cool cadence of Crosby’s voice
complementary to the sound of fat oak leaves
pounced by rain. I can see them:
Bing still boyish on the verge of fifty,
placing a hand on the rawhide shoulders of Teagarden,
who periodically grins at the floor,
fidgets with the slide of his trombone.
I smile at the plate I’m washing, the tension
slackens in my neck and my apartment warms
with the admiration in their voices.
Both men have been dead for decades
but somewhere there’s a place, a park bench
looking out over a lake or a table at some café
left vacant, unused since their passing.
Not an homage to where they once had their lunch
but a space that encompassed
what they knew and never knew of each other.
Not heaven or a memory (nothing
we can’t touch or prove), but a room
behind a locked door behind which we can stand,
a spot on a map we can point to.
Somewhere we know exists and leave alone.

— First published in Pennsylvania English

 

 

 

JAMES STEWART’S VOICE

 

Everybody tries to imitate it, drawling
each vowel as if it were a summer day
spent in a hammock. You come home,
press the button on the answering machine

and there’s Grandpa croaking, Hello. Hello?
This is Jimmy Stewart, I’ll call back in a while.

And at parties, you can count on at least
one drunken ass peeping under skirts —

claiming to search for Zuzu’s petals.
It’s important to soften all the ‘Ss’
and to pucker your lips. It’s always
easier to impersonate someone

more like yourself — not a tough guy
like Bogart or as worldly as Cary Grant,
but someone who’s terrified of heights,
whose closest friend is an invisible

six foot rabbit — a man whose greatest talent
is to appear to have no special talent at all.
Someone who wishes he had never been born,
smart enough to take it all back.

 

About Joshua Michael Stewart

Joshua Michael Stewart is a Massachusetts Book Award nominee, and the author of two chapbooks, Vintage Gray, published by Pudding House Publications in 2007, and Sink Your Teeth into the Light, published by Finishing Line Press in 2012. He has had poems published in the Massachusetts Review, Worcester Review, Euphony, Rattle, Cold Mountain Review, William and Mary Review, Pedestal Magazine, Evansville Review and Blueline. He lives in Ware, Massachusetts. Visit him at: www.joshuamichaelstewart.com

 

 

Share this:

Comment on this article:

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

In this Issue

photo of Sullivan Fortner by Carol Friedman
“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…

Interview

photo by Michael Lionstar
In a wide-ranging interview, Nate Chinen, former New York Times jazz critic and currently the director of editorial content for WBGO (Jazz) Radio, talks about his book Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century,, described by Herbie Hancock as a “fascinating read” that shows Chinen’s “firm support of the music

Short Fiction

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

Poetry

photo of Stan Getz by Veryl Oakland
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?”

"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 this edition, Michael Jarrett interviews producer Nat Hentoff about the experience of working with Charles Mingus at the time of Mingus’ 1961 album. Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus — recorded for Hentoff’s short-lived label Candid Records

Art

"Dreaming of Bird at Billy Bergs" - by Charles Ingham
“Charles Ingham’s Jazz Narratives” — a continuing series

Poetry

Painting of John Coltrane by Tim Hussey
“broken embouchure” — a poem by M.T. Whitington

Art

photo of Chet Baker by Veryl Oakland

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 Yusef Lateef and Chet Baker

Interviews

photo by Francis Wolff, courtesy of Mosaic Records
Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, discusses her late husband’s complex, fascinating life.

Poetry

photo from Pixabay
“The Fibonacci Quartet Plays Improv” — a poem by Gerard Furey

Short Fiction

“The Stories of Strange Melodies” a story by Vivien Li , was a finalist in our recently concluded 51st Short Fiction Contest.

In the previous issue

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

Contributing writers

Site Archive