“Serendipity” — a poem by Michael L. Newell

February 1st, 2019

.

.

 

.

.

SERENDIPITY

As I walk down the dirt road from my job, headed
slowly home, I pass a few people wandering here
and there as their work day ends; I amble past
an old home with a corrugated metal roof, bricks
holding down the sheets of metal from blowing away,
a light breeze tossing laundry on ropes strung between trees,

my mind wandering in a thousand directions
with no particular destination in mind, just
the pleasure of reverie–when I hear song,
not the radio, not a recording, but a small choir
singing in Kinyarwanda, six or seven
female voices and a couple of men, their

voices rising and falling from the home’s
living room, a beautiful repetitive melody
enhanced by constantly shifting harmonies,
counterpoint melodies, and one male voice
chanting or speaking underneath the rise
and fall, the same voice lifting in ecstatic

soaring flight above the others, a song at once
celebratory and deeply sad, the melody ascending
and tumbling, repeating itself again and again, every time
it seems to reach an end, the male leader
bursts into an impassioned chant which leads
all back into close harmonies which

stop my homeward journey; I stand still,
eyes shut, and listen, nearly weeping.
I hear someone close by and open my eyes to see
two young women passing by who ignore me but are
quietly singing with the song coming from the home.
I realize I have been standing in one place for ten minutes

or more. People at a nearby cross street are staring at me,
but I can’t move along; I sway in slow time
to the music which continues to flow through
the neighborhood; and then I realize a large vehicle
has stopped by me, and a Rwandan friend leans out the window
to ask whether I am okay. I explain why I am standing there,

and he says, “Ah, a choir,” and turns off
his engine with a smile to listen, only
to discover the music has ceased. I decline
a ride and walk homeward with the music
still rising and falling in my memory.
I do not know whether the music was religious,

or folk song, or political, or celebratory, or grieving,
but hours later I still hear the music
as I go about my nightly ablutions. I realize
I have been changed without ever seeing those
responsible for the change. I have heard
on a dirt road from a ramshackle home, music

rough-hewn, homemade, finer than what I could find
in a concert hall while entertained by highly trained
professional musicians. I have heard music
from the blood and marrow of people singing
because it defines who they are.
I have listened to the heartbeat of a people.

.

…………………………………………………………………….January 2013, Kigali, Rwanda

.

by Michael L. Newell

.

.

_______

 

.

.

Michael L. Newell was a long-time expat (23.5 years) who was an English and Theatre teacher.  He has had more than 900 poems published in approximately 80 journals, most in the United States, a handful in England.  A few of the journals in which he has appeared includeBellowing Ark, Current, The Iconoclast, Rattle, College English, Lilliput Review, Ship of Fools,  and Verse-Virtual. His most recent book (from Bellowing Ark Press) is Meditation of an Old Man Standing on a Bridge.  Newell currently lives on the south-central Oregon coast.

Click here .to access all of Michael L. Newell’s poetry published on Jerry Jazz Musician

To order a copy of the book, contact BELLOWING ARK PRESS 18040 7th Avenue NE Shoreline, WA 98155

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Share this:

4 comments on ““Serendipity” — a poem by Michael L. Newell”

  1. Michael: You … have overdone, yourself again. I don’t know how many times I have heard, just part of a melody, that stays with me. This affected me very much! Great feeling! Alan.

  2. Mike,

    This one of my favorites! Your way with words (which connect us to music) and, perhaps more important to me, your connection to those you encounter in your journeys always amaze me.
    I envy you.

  3. Thank you for that, Michael. In these dark times we need all the serendipities we can get – and indeed the poems that re-create the serendipities for us.

Comment on this article:

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

In this Issue

Art by Russell Dupont
Twenty-eight poets contribute 37 poems to the Jerry Jazz Musician Fall Poetry Collection, living proof that the energy and spirit of jazz is alive — and quite well.

Short Fiction

Photo/CC0 Public Doman
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #52 — “Random Blonde,” by Zandra Renwick

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

Essay

photo of Esbjorn Svensson Trio/Pkobel/Creative Commons
“The Trio That Should Have Reshaped Jazz” — an essay by Scott Archer Jones

Photography

Veryl Oakland’s “Jazz in Available Light” — photos (and stories) of Mal Waldron, Jackie McLean and Joe Henderson

“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

"Jazz Samba"/Verve Records
In this edition, excerpted from Michael Jarrett's Pressed For All Time, legendary producer Creed Taylor remembers the 1962 Stan Getz recording, Jazz Samba

Interview

Photographer Carol Friedman
In an entertaining conversation that also features a large volume of her famous photography, Carol Friedman discusses her lifelong work of distinction in the world of jazz photography

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

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

photo/Creative Commons CC0.
Con Chapman, author of Rabbit's Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges, contributes a humorous short story, "Father Kniest: Jazz Priest"

In the Previous 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…

Contributing writers

Site Archive