12 poets contribute 19 poems dedicated to the culture of jazz music, and to the holiday season…
Collage by Steve Dalachinsky
Where Were You?
We climbed out from under
our desks. Kennedy barely
two years dead. At home
our bungalow was brand new
basement rec room entered the spirit
of the times with television.
There I was alone with the TV
December 9, 1965 a school night
for the premiere of Charlie Brown’s Christmas,
ten years old hearing my first jazz
in my pajamas not played by Lawrence Welk.
I was lifted up by tidings of great joy
& Coca Cola. The cool jazz a happy
accident, a groove for the century
by Vince last name starts with a G
I never got it right until I got it on vinyl,
Guaraldi, and it’s spinning right now.
Breeze flowing through eucalyptus, the murmur
of a stream over roots and rocks, the whisper
of night rain through an open window,
rippling keys singing in response to deft touch
of Bill Evans or Oscar Peterson,
all these bestow peace on those who listen.
Michael L. Newell
It was the Roaring 20’s
the Jazz Age
and Santa Claus were there
with the steel workers
the miners and brickies
and East Liberty
to see the legendary Garfield man
pound for pound the greatest fighter
who ever lived
face Tommy Loughran
at Motor Square Garden
on Christmas day 1923
this was a gift
hung by a chimney with care
and Harry didn’t disappoint
he turned Mr. Loughran from Philadelphia
into Christmas pudding
and chased him around the ring
our city can beat your city
the great brass section of the crowd roared
you could hear them up and down Baum Boulevard
as Loughran’s teeth
found the balcony
Pittsburgh is the toughest city in the world
the bookies crowed
all heroes now
the coke ovens and furnaces burned for miles in the dark
and the snow was busy punching
the Ohio River in the mouth
over and over
with no ref to stop the carnage
Listening to Angels
The pain of his
welled up thick in his eyes
piano keys drowned under his
while his feet lifted
shiny and smooth.
his face tilted to the throne of
as shoulders swayed
with the walk of
speaking words angels share
At a Window
Snow was falling, winding
sheets in Amman's dusk,
years spiraling past.
Miles 'round midnight
blew blue notes
each cooler than the snow.
No cold, there was no cold like memory,
frozen on a windowsill, the liquid
of her voice embalmed.
Notes cracked, ice
ready for a thaw,
the wind hinting at life's losses.
Heaters rumbled bass notes,
the shutters shivered in irregular rhythm,
the horn held it all together, a winter psalm.
(Amman, Jordan, December 1992)
Michael L. Newell
In the recesses of my mind’s pleasure
Unfolds a Christmas Eve –
Slush on sidewalk, galoshes,
Wet face, shopping complete.
Quiet house, fireplace burning,
………Deep old soft chair.
LP record on the Hi Fi
Sounds sensual, relaxing,
Smooth as sipping this Bailey’s Irish Creme.
Thoughts of you
Soft, sweet, soon, tomorrow,
On your one-day military furlough.
What more for a special holiday remembrance?
Lawrence J. Klumas
my mom's friend, elise
came over and she brought everyone gifts
and no one thought about daddy
not being around anymore
my brothers and i, played and rode
our bicycles, with her kids
and we forgot blacks and whites
weren't supposed to get along
and mama and elise cooked christmas dinner
the way only single moms could
and visions of empty rooms and closets
where daddy once was, dissappeared
and the world will one day
live up to dr. king's dream
and left and right will only
and me and friends will celebrate
like i did when i was a kid
naive and happy, and there will be
peace on earth
John Lee Hooker
cooks some "Blues for Christmas."
They mourn life's vicissitudes, yet
listeners tap feet, swing, sway,
slow rock shoulders, hips, and legs;
as the guitar charts a course through life,
the drummer lays out a beat that even
an old man can follow; the sax wails
a tale of heartbreak to make listeners know
they are not alone, while the piano
slips in comments that make a listener
smile and nod his head. Brother Hooker's voice
is worn, torn, essential to discovery of joy.
Michael L. Newell
Blues for Kenny
No one at Ford
worked harder and was appreciated less
but he didn’t care
he was high
most of the time
he used to say
that’s what kept him going
that and listening to Coltrane
if it wasn’t for the union
he’d have been fired
that’s what everyone said
if that was the case
then UAW Local 1250
was a good thing
because I liked Kenny
behind the safety goggles
he was a man
with his priorities
in the right place
the 60’s was no time
to be sober or straight
Kenny picked up his habit
in the army
he was in military intelligence
for a while in Saigon
at the beginning
so he knew from the get go
how fucked everything was
it was like surviving a hurricane
if that doesn’t deserve a joint
once in while
he told me
I don’t know what does
or at least a fishing trip
Christmas At the Dying Mall
Three grey penguins lean at the entrance
Ten years old, faded, tired.
Is it a saving grace? Or melancholia? Velvet, mellow, floating through the air, Nat King Cole is roasting chestnuts by an open fire
I stroll in front of a once-Macy’s to note a X-mas house complete with elves: cameras in hand, and St. Nick with stained beard in a moth-eaten suit. Five children are waiting in line, three crying and two picking their noses. Their parents nearby are on-line ordering Christmas from Amazon
Ella skips along with Frosty the Snowman to add melody to the packing and taping of boxes. Kitchen wares are heading to wherever slow-cookers and grills go when kitchen stores are kitchened out.
Around a bend to where jewelers once jeweled. From empty store fronts, easy Dean takes it all in stride. “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,” he croons.
Cold air seeping forth from dark spaces. Bolts and chains across hollow store fronts. Tacky carpets. Echoes sprouting naught but yesterdays. Only irreplaceable jazz do we recognize.
Jingle the bells, Duke. Swing us back through the years to drumbeats. Bleating trumpets. Throbbing saxes. Pianos pulling all together. All signaling to each other. Unite us with Silver Bells, with mangers, sleds, pine cones, a white Christmas, and tinsel … and what are you doing New Year’s Eve?
Christmas is tough
everyone knows it
buses aren’t warm
streets aren’t plowed
snow and ice comes
like crime and potholes
like death and taxes
which is about the same
the flowers and trees
have retired to Florida
before anyone could stop them
to the land of beautiful men and beautiful women
I’m pretty sure
their skin is the color of bacon
because they want it to be
they run back and forth on the beach
our computers grinding back and forth
like tugs on the Ohio
that’s the difference then
and we’re listening to Earl Hines
and Stanley Turrentine in this heaven
The woman in the red hat
I looked for her as I walked
To the train
The woman with the red hat
Chesnut hair hiding under it
Like a torch
She walked like she had a purpose
She looked like she should
Be singing Christmas carols
Her face was Christmas:
Childlike and girly
Her smile a silent night
Maybe next time I see
I’ll give her this poem
I’ll tell her
You’re never too busy
To stop and watch the
Even something as simple as
A snowflake has a
Angels flutter in the heads of
his fingers; voices in the strings wrap
the air with the beat of him.
He is constant in jazz.
The wine of his youth reddens the blood
of years spilled in clubs, shed onto crowds
and dusted over cities who love his name.
He absorbs the eyes fixed into the soul of
his speaking. An ocean of faces wave with
a tide of approval.
He reaches into, pulling out a gift;
the greater part of him unwrapped.
Trane Is My Favorite Thing
I am a Cali-Girl, no woolen mittens
Never ate schnitzel with noodles
No snowflakes on my nose, or
felt them on my eyelashes
A tenor sax played by Trane, digging
the vibe of his Christmas fling
giving doorbells and sleigh bells
a groovy zing, Trane, my favorite thing
Greensleeves, What Child is This, Elvin Jones
on the drums, Garrison on bass, McCoy Tyner’s
fingers on the keys, Christmas carols I could
not believe, making Trane, my favorite thing
Joyful Jazz, a Yuletide razz-ma-tazz
Not when the dog bites
or the bee stings
Trane is my favorite thing
One lives and dies
in a Christmas year
yet everything remains
beauty calls to me
Nothing sticks to the slick
surface of the present
arrives with every
beauty never old
Coltrane to Miles
couldn’t find a place to stop
so he burned like a star
Miles took down his horn
raised his shades
The Big Blue Marble
of what goes
Life is improvisation
that keeps its secret
as long as we dance
to its tune
beauty is home
3 wise men
(the joe morris trio at the cornelia street café – 12/1/18)
there is motor move-
ment…large star in sky/field
it can be extra-terrestrial of struc-
ture……a roller of sorts come down
… … … to be arrival the way plates carry them-
selves in shifts a reason to be merry (elf)
a gift – shifting / plausible pauses / probable
…de ray l mence / sled ride
… … … … the structure a comprehensible stress
the stress of comprehension / precipice unending
… … … hair stood on end / his whitened beard
a fraction of what is mirrored / so willed yet
… … … free wise men off on a journey to usher in
the new born YEAR.
it is snowing somewhere in snowville
the reindeer are getting cold
one has a nose as red as the cheeks of
an old drunk
they are preparing for their journey
to a warmer land where a small group of
survivors light candles to their god as they hold off
the enemy the lights will miraculously last 8 nights
as they burn into the eyes of the oppressors
just long enough for the reindeer-pulled sled to arrive
the sky clears / candles & one bright star show the way
the 3 wise men approach / remove their crowns
they bear gifts in the form of glorious music
a music some call JAZZ
the air is filled with candlelight &
resistance the 3 gravitate toward the
CENTER – suddenly there is an explosion
of sound & again the universe is reborn
… again the victims are victorious
… … … the virtuous & vicious alike are saved
… … … … the madmen scenesters & the healers healed
& the blues become a rejoicing
…… & the finite becomes religion
… … … … & religion becomes music
… … … … … … & MUSIC becomes our SALVATION.
(nyc 12/1 & 2/ 2018)
The highway stretches away
under my winter tires
I’m chasing moonlight
to anywhere but here
it’s coming fast God Bless the Child
I’m running to the light
130 kilometres an hour
not fast enough
to escape the night.
Christmas Shopping: The Busker
The spitting rain of late December morning.
He settles to his pitch,
hacks and phlegms before scratching
an opening chord.
They pass by, smug families,
a few impassive singles.
He is singing McTell today,
The Streets of sixties London.
Michelle comes past, damped down for now
by another night’s abuse,
but Streets of London brings a memory
(a quick and unexpected chime,
like a knock on the lid of a buried treasure).
The school assemblies where they sang that song,
Miss Jenkin’s special class assemblies,
those coigns of mutual worth.
Passing an hour later, Richard is impressed.
He’s thirteen, has his first guitar at home,
admires this guy’s fingerwork,
has him up there with footballers.
And then the busker sings the boat songs,
Skye and Mingulay, Scottish of course, not Irish,
but Bridie (exiled after Londonderry
and the bomb attack) is caught by an echo
(maybe the catarrhal catch in the busker’s voice),
by memories of smoky ceilidhs,
the folk singers, the kitchen ranges,
the homestead, the heartland.
(first published in Red River Review #58, February 2016)
A Canadian Christmas
The lake frozen over,
Kids playing shinny until it's too dark to see the puck,
A snowbank piled up against the side of the house,
Raccoons sleeping on the woodpile,
Inside, Oscar Peterson on the stereo,
The kitchen busy and warm,
Family together at last,
Arguments started, won, lost, and forgotten,
Silly hats at the table,
Peace and Jazz to all.
John Stupp’s third poetry collection Pawleys Island was published in 2017 by Finishing Line Press. His manuscript Summer Job won the 2017 Cathy Smith Bowers Poetry Prize and will be published in 2018 by Main Street Rag. He lives near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. From 1975-1985 he worked professionally as a mediocre jazz guitarist.
Freddington works as a shipper/receiver in Toronto, Canada, and has been a lifelong jazz fan ever since he was “corrupted” as a teenager by Charles Mingus’ “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting.”
Susandale’s poems and fiction are on WestWard Quarterly, Mad Swirl, Penman Review, The Voices Project, and Jerry Jazz Musician. In 2007, she won the grand prize for poetry from Oneswan. The Spaces Among Spaces from languageandculture.org has been on the internet. Bending the Spaces of Time from Barometric Pressure is on the internet now.
Roger Singer is a prolific and accomplished contributing poet who we have proudly published for many years. Singer has had almost 800 poems published in magazines, periodicals and online journals — 400 of which are jazz poems — and has recently self-published a Kindle edition of his book of jazz poetry called Poetic Jazz.
“Jazz poetry flows out with such ease,” Singer writes on his blog. “The people and places, the alleys and sawdust jazz clubs. The stories that bring jazz alive with horns and voices, from sadness and grief to highs at midnight and love gone wrong. The jazz is within us all. Find your poem and feel the music.”
Robert Nisbet is a poet from Wales who taught creative writing for many years in Trinity College, Carmarthen, where he also acted as professor to exchange students from the Central College of Iowa. He has over 300 poems published in Britain and the USA, including San Pedro River Review, Common Ground Review and Constellations.
Michael L. Newell is a retired English/Theatre teacher who has spent one-third of his life abroad. He now lives on the Oregon coast. In addition to the recent publication of his new book, Meditation of an Old Man Standing on a Bridge, he has recently had poems published in Verse-Virtual and Current.
Lawrence J. Klumas has written poetry since 1958, and continued writing for his engineering profession — but, most recently re-immersed himself into poetry and writing with a passion. He has been published in Que sais-je, on-line at Jerry Jazz Musician, Diocesan Messenger. He contributes a poem weekly to the Fallbrook, CA Episcopal Church newsletter. He has a chapbook submitted for San Diego Book Awards.
He is a retired USAF officer, an engineer, a Viet Nam veteran, and a past Assoc VP Occidental College (Facilities). He has a BS In Business Administration (with a minor in Literature) from Eastern Nazarene College, and both a BS and MS in Industrial Engineering from Arizona State University.
Erren Kelly is a two-time Pushcart nominated poet from Boston whose work has appeared in 300 publications (print and online), including Hiram Poetry Review, Mudfish, Poetry Magazine, Ceremony, Cacti Fur, Bitterzoet, Cactus Heart, Similar Peaks, Gloom Cupboard, and Poetry Salzburg.
Victor Enns reads and writes poetry and fiction. Afghanistan Confessions, poems in the voice of Canadian soldiers, was published in 2014, boy in 2012. Lucky Man (2005) was nominated for the McNally Robinson Manitoba Book of the Year award. His poems have appeared in Canadian publications and including Rattle (print) and Shot Glass Journal (online) in the U.S.
Mark Kerstetter makes his home in St. Petersburg, Florida where he is restoring an old house out of wood salvaged from demolition sites. A two-time award winner for drawing and painting at the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, his current focus is on creative writing. A winner of the Jerry Jazz Musician New Short Fiction Award and a Pushcart nominee for poetry, Mark is the former poetry editor of the online arts magazine Escape Into Life and the author of The Mockingbird Sings blog. His chapbook of poems, “One Step: prayers and curses” was published in 2017 by Atomic Theory Micro Press.
Aurora M. Lewis is a retiree. In her 50’s she received a Certificate in Creative Writing-General Studies, with honors from UCLA. Her poems, short stories, and nonfiction have been accepted by The Literary Hatchet, Gemini Magazine, Persimmon Tree, Jerry Jazz Musician, and The Blue Nib, to name only a few.
Steven Dalachinsky is a New York downtown poet. He is active in the poetry, music, art, and free jazz scene. Dalachinsky’s main influences are the Beats, William Blake, The Odyssey, obsession, socio-political angst, human disappointment, music (especially Jazz), and visual art with leanings toward abstraction. Dalachinsky’s books include “A Superintendent’s Eyes” (Hozomeen Press 2000), his PEN Award Winning book The Final Nite & Other Poems: Complete Notes From A Charles Gayle Notebook 1987-2006 (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2006), a compendium of poetry written while watching saxophonist Charles Gayle perform throughout New York City in that time period, and “Logos and Language”, co-authored with pianist Matthew Shipp (RogueArt 2008) and Reaching Into The Unknown, a collaboration with French photographer Jacques Bisceglia (RogueArt 2009).