Literature » Poetry

Two poems by Michael L. Newell






Rikki spun, spun
and leaped, twirled
and dipped,
                 James Brown
on the jukebox, the small
bar filled with smoke, clinking
glasses, Filipinas in short dresses,
and a couple dozen G.I.’s profane,
obscene, and three-quarters in the bag;

Rikki, half-black, half-
Filipino, ten, living
in alleys and under bars, danced
for a dollar, a dime, a peso,
a drink or a sandwich, danced
in any bar which would let
him, invented moves
ten years before their time, eyes
half-shut and feet ablaze
he’d enchant money meant for a drink
or a roll on a flea-ridden mattress
out of fingers surprised at where
they deposited their cargo — the New York Mets
hat passed just before Rikki danced
out the door and down the street;

even the whores contributed — they knew
a fellow survivor when they saw one;
the G.I.’s created stories about his origins;
Rikki just danced through long sweaty summer nights
until he disappeared, no explanations,
no curtain calls, leaving
the King of Soul alone on the jukebox.













plates on end
roll round
a waitress snaps
the man in white
chops lettuce tomatoes veal carrots
this medley

will cook

the cashier rings
out a rhythm
three dimes two bills and a quarter

menus bop tables

cigarettes on fire
all through the room

rain gleams on windowsill
brushes street
a steady muttering
ho boy
look at the couple
coming through the door
for sure they own
the night
his arm on her her
head on him hey
Joe I bet
you know where they’ve been

tonight their fingers
will run riffs
through hair
down necks
across shoulders
the purest jazz they are
alone together

headlights blare
harsh solos
weed-filled city lots

a voice here
a voice there
more coffee
pass the bottle this way
don’t bogart that joint
night is
a long blues solo

                             (for Monk and Mingus)












Michael L. Newell is a retired secondary school English/Theatre teacher who currently lives on the south-central Oregon coast. He has had poems recently published in (among other places) Verse-Virtual, Culture Counter, The Iconoclast, Ship of Fools, and Red Eft Review.