Poetry by Mark J. Mitchell

January 15th, 2011




For Jimmie and Carolyn

A soft saxophone
      inscribes its light melody
on this moonlit night.

It feels so vibrant
      like your youth revisited
but better than that.

Autumn’s blossoming
      and that brass rings like silver,
like laughter, like love

And the well-worn song
      rehearses its chorus: Too
young to go steady.


Suspended somewhere between
the bold bottom notes-
dominated by flat keys-
and those long, right hand
figures that almost melt
into a bugle call
there’s something hidden.
that can’t be described
only conjured by Estelle’s voice
pleading for someone
to make her a pallet on the ground.


You can spend all day
Tripping over grails
And never see them:

The smell of well made wine;
Sun flashing off a fifty-seven T-bird;
Summer dresses in February.

Finally, Miles’ horn hits “Summertime”
Just as your wife comes home
And you get to claim the mystery.





It’s light on silver-black and white,

Grainy footage of a smoky room,

A woman at the keys. A spotlight

As perfectly round as the moon

Frames her form. She picks at a tune.

This is jazz, now, it’s uncertain.

Her fingers stop, hover, resume.

She stands, walks behind a curtain.

Years later-in color now-her

Faith allows her to break that long

Silence, permits her to return

To a keyboard. She was all wrong.

This is where those fingers belong.

God wants her to play piano.

A moment, then you know the song:

It Ain’t Necessarily So.




Kurt Weill, 1928/Sonny Rollins, 1955

Women appear out of the smoke

From long forgotten cigarettes.

Music conjures the burning looks,

Music makes you forget.


That’s not a sax, it’s a scalpel

Perfect for taking tunes apart.

Then his inhuman breath will pull

It from your shattered heart.


Maybe it’s something in the key

Or some arcane message in his tone,

But at some bars you’re sure you see

Her torn dress, hear her moans.


It’s a song-you almost hear words

Hinted at by high flats and low sharps.

Little by little your ear is lured

To sin sweetly in the dark.


It isn’t human, but it’s a voice,

Honed and edged, sharp as a knife,

Carving music from not quite noise

To force you to change your night.




About Mark J. Mitchell

Mark J. Mitchell studied writing and medieval literature at the University of California at Santa Cruz with Raymond Carver, George Hitchcock, Barbara Hull and Robert M. Durling.

His work has appeared in the anthologies Good Poems, American Places (Viking/Penguin), Line Drives (Southern Illinois University Press), Hunger Enough (Puddinghouse Press) and Zeus Seduces the Wicked Stepmother in the Saloon of the Gingerbread House (Winterhawk Press). His chapbook, Three Visitors won the 2010 Negative Capability Press International Chapbook competition and was published in 2011.  His novel Knight Prisoner is available from Vagabondage Press

His poems have also appeared in many magazines over the last twenty years, including
J Journal, kayak, Blue Unicorn, Black Bough, Santa Barbara Review, Pearl, Runes and Poem.

Share this:

Comment on this article:

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

In This Issue

Michael Cuscuna, Mosaic Records co-founder, is interviewed about his successful career as a jazz producer, discographer, and entrepreneur...Also in this issue, in celebration of Blue Note’s 80th year, we asked prominent writers and musicians the following question: “What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums; a new collection of jazz poetry; “On the Turntable,” is a new playlist of 18 recently released jazz recordings from six artists – Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano, Matt Brewer, Tom Harrell, Zela Margossian and Aaron Burnett; two new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Jazz History Quiz”; a new feature called “Pressed for All Time,”; a new photo-narrative by Charles Ingham; and…lots 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


In this month’s collection, with great jazz artists at the core of their work, 16 poets remember, revere, ponder, laugh, dream, and listen

The Joys of Jazz

In this new volume of his podcasts, Bob presents two stories, one on Clifford Brown (featuring the trumpeter Charlie Porter) and the other is part two of his program on stride piano, including a conversation with Mike Lipskin

Short Fiction

We had many excellent entrants in our recently concluded 50th Short Fiction Contest. In addition to publishing the winning story on March 11, with the consent of the authors, we have published several of the short-listed stories...

“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 Creed Taylor about how he came to use tape overdubs during the 1957 Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross Sing a Song of Basie recording session


"Thinking About Charlie Parker" -- a photo narrative by Charles Ingham

Jazz History Quiz #128

Although he was famous for modernizing the sound of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra -- “On the Sunny Side of the Street” was his biggest hit while working for Dorsey (pictured) -- this arranger will forever be best-known for his work with the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra. Who is he?

Great Encounters

In this edition, Bob Dylan recalls what Thelonious Monk told him about music at New York’s Blue Note club in c. 1961.


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 Stan Getz, Sun Ra, and Carla Bley.


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

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

Coming Soon

"The Photography Issue" will feature an interview with jazz photographer Carol Friedman (her photo of Wynton Marsalis is pictured), as well as with Michael Cuscuna on unreleased photos by Blue Note's Francis Wolff.

In the previous issue

Jeffrey Stewart, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, is interviewed about Locke (pictured), the father of the Harlem Renaissance. Also in this issue…A new collection of jazz poetry; "On the Turntable," a new playlist of 19 recommended recordings by five 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…

Contributing writers

Site Archive