Wade missed the sweat. The sticky air that hugged you like a fat friend. The languid, dirty stench of swampy gutters. Of Bourbon street piss and puke. Of Dat Dogs at three in the morning, and the street mutts that cawed at the Mississippi. The rats and cockroaches scuttling around your shoes. The humidity. The heat.
He missed all of it.
New York was cold. Not just the weather, but the people, too. Hardened pedestrians crushed the MTA platforms like stone statues, eyes glazed onto their phones or the wall or the floor. No smiles. No inward space given away to strangers. They hugged into their...
July 18th, 2017
piano dances listeners down the street
feet must move to keep up
crowds gather round
street life jumping this way and that...
July 1st, 2017
when you fell out of a window
… you made me give up on you.
(maybe I shouldn’t have).
when the movie about you
recently came out: all of us
believed ethan hawke
was you, in “born to
June 22nd, 2017
The purpose of motion begins,
A clear mind, aware and in focus,
Ahead, the optical pathway lies empty and silent,
Slow at the start, breathing steady,
Stepping through the changes,
Favouring a motif,
As the intensity builds,
June 18th, 2017
Swoosh! Shhh. Shhhhh! I hear the ear numbing screech and the train finally stops moving. Nine seconds and the loud beep will announce the door opening. Heels clack against the icy early morning pavement. The mass of cigarette smoke hazes my sense of direction until we finally reach the end of the Binario 12 and my ears welcome the familiar sound of strings.
It’s distant and quite mellow but I can still make out the song. It’s a new one. He’s only played it a few times. I know it. Everyone loves it because it’s from that movie. The one with...
June 15th, 2017
full of bees again,
flapping in a stuttering breeze,
high up on...
June 12th, 2017
You bring out the jazz in me
The art blakey, max roach the roy haynes in me
Seeing you shake your hips like
Congas…the way you move your hips to a mamba
My heart pounding like drums inside my head
But this fever won’t put me in bed
Instead I get out on the dance floor
June 11th, 2017
That winter we lived among mice in the Berkshires, in a little cabin set not far from a large white clapboard house that belonged to the owner Betty, who was a widow. Two steps up to the cabin did nothing to keep the mice away. Their constant tweaking and bustle made me feel I was living in an indoor forest. Betty, who was a nice old lady, warned us. “You’ll never be able to keep the mice out. If you can stand them, the place is yours.”
We had come up to the Berkshires figuring we might have to rough it, but had no idea. Van and I had been together about two years then. The summer before we had been married on a beach in...
June 6th, 2017
Michael continued down the darkening street. A gust of wind blew off the Lake. His eyes watered. He turned his back to the wind, and the wind blew hard, unfurling his coat and his pant legs. He bent into it to soften its assault, but he soon turned his back to protect his face against the onslaught. A man and a woman hurried across the street, almost bumping into him, holding hands as if one would fly away. The lid blew off of a trashcan and crashed wildly into the street; a car rattled by up ahead at the intersection. When at last the street was empty with no more cars and no more men or women about, Michael found himself alone but for a few...
May 24th, 2017
May 18th, 2017
It’s the anybody;
the horned rimmed glasses,
book reader, bus rider, bow tie,
felt hat or tattoo that holds the
jazz. Distilled in flavor, an aroma
gentle and fierce. Its nail scratching,
May 13th, 2017
The wordsmith paints a picture,
A kind of bebop exchange,
Rambling around the neighbourhood,
Curbside to parkside,
Phrasing with style,
May 8th, 2017
Somewhere between the wide open spaces
And those tiny, secret places in the heart,
The sound of nursery rhymes and temple chimes
Mingle with incense and nonsense
Until even the air has to smile.
That’s where you’ll find me, in my hiding place,
Making up rhymes and trying to keep time
To the pace of the
May 4th, 2017
Watch her closely; loosen your clothes.
Her quiet storm makes love to listeners
in the heat of each performance,
cuts through crap, produces mystic music…
She’ll seduce you with contralto soul
until you lose your mind,...
April 19th, 2017
IT WAS ALL ABOUT SAX
when man said the wind man
blowing when does the wind do
its voodoo upon leaf and bud
bloody the morning the storm
warning it is on its way its windy
winding wickedly roaring crack
thunder and snap way paving
the air for
April 12th, 2017
The dank and chilly hall echoed with a Marksmen rehearsal taking place. Lea and her spanking-new group rehearsed their music on a stage bordered by tables holding overturned chairs. And as David sat unnoticed in the dark hall, Lea’s caramel voice melted to run down the walls, and warm the empty pockets in his heart.
*Daydreams, I’ve got daydreams galore.
Cigarette ashes, there they go on the floor.”
Scooting around, he wrestled with the chair’s wooden slats and wobbly legs versus his long limbs.
And while Lea was singing the third stanza, *”Let them laugh, let them frown … “ David was plotting his exit from the trailer. He was so engrossed with his plans that he didn’t notice the...
April 5th, 2017
Unlike New York City
L.A. is a woman who will love you back
But she gives her love freely and often
On a not so beautiful morning,
I went to the movies and thought
about you as the credits rolled.
Tried to wash you out of my hair,
but love lingers like a
April 2nd, 2017
Someone in the back of my
VW bus said it would be good to
turn our rock & roll band
into a jazz trio.
I turned off the radio. Complete
silence except for
the whistle of wheat as we swept
Then Pete said that he could...
March 31st, 2017
swing swagger and sway
she bop she bop drift those feet
first one way then another
swirl round and round and back again
light up the floor fly up above
March 13th, 2017
Years later he became a professor, a scholar—wrote a well-received book on epistemology. But back then he was just a guy in love.
They’d taken a cheap room in Venice for the summer, a run-down place a couple of blocks from Dockweiler Beach. You could always smell the sea, its powerful mix of salt freshness and rot. He’d never lived with a woman before; she’d had other boyfriends. She was from back-county San Diego, told him she’d come to L.A. looking for a real life. He’d just graduated from...
March 11th, 2017
I wake up when the door opens. Instant-awake, alert. I’m staring at the ceiling, at the ornate medallion in its center. Late-night city glow from the windows casts awkward shadows on the plaster. The light clicks on, and I hear a gasp. I feel a sympathetic shot of adrenaline hit my chest. I look toward the door, and there’s a woman there, a stranger. A beauty, too, dressed in a black pants-suit, purse slung over a shoulder, the jacket cut and fitted to her slim waist matador-style. Beneath the jacket, she’s wearing a white blouse with an enormous collar that flares out over her shoulders and breast, like gull wings. Her hair is loose, brown, shoulder-length, streaked with bits of blonde, her face around her dark eyes a mix of fear and puzzlement.
“Who are you?” she says, her hand still on the light switch. “What are you doing here?” Her voice quivers.
I look around. The ceiling looks like my...
March 4th, 2017
Yes, it is hot,
night sweats beneath
Spanish moss and the terror in trees
now knowing no cover of darkness
to greet a Sunday morning
under the stairs
16th Street Baptist Church.
and the siren wails
February 19th, 2017
She didn’t want to drink
so we walked hand-in-hand
half-way home before
it dawned on us that we had
parked behind the
February 11th, 2017
Jeffrey’s fingers hovered inches above the ivory. His heart pounded. The oak bench creaked as he leaned forward, only the toes of his scuffed leather shoes making contact with the floor. The hand-written notes on the page in front of him bounced up and down with every panting breath. He recognized most of the squiggles and lines cascading up and down the staff, but he couldn’t read a single word that surrounded them. Ms. Joetta’s voice echoed in his head, reverberated out of the hole in his threadbare fedora. Play, son. The first chance you get, and don’t look back. He could feel lightning in his fingers, almost driving him past the fear deep in his...
January 28th, 2017
a leaf flutters rises and glides
to its rest a blues note
in autumn as a slow rain falls
at the end of a windy day
and a scattering of distant
January 11th, 2017
At the abandoned jazz club,
where I once debuted,
only spiders and rodents
reside behind the acoustical panels
that once resonated my dreams.
I see my distorted image
reflected upon the scarred ride cymbal
of a headless drum set
and feel like an intruder,
disrupting a Buddy Rich riff
December 16th, 2016
Her voice shredded, turned to gravel
by cigarettes and whiskey, she navigates
grocery aisles and checkout lines
as sotto voce she sings old songs
both jazz and country. People stare
in amazement as her ruined voice
elicits tears from listening bystanders.
In her living room she croons with
December 10th, 2016
“What a shame,” people always said whenever they saw the two of them, Jeremy and Jade. What a shame the beauty of the boy had escaped the girl, who had her mother’s small oval face and father’s prominent nose and small dark eyes that were filled with a peculiar, almost unnatural intensity. “Such a shame,” relatives observed unabashedly at family gatherings. The remaining phrase that hung in air unspoken was, ”that she isn’t the beautiful one. “
To herself in the mirror, Jade’s own face and visage seemed fine, just a part of her, not even all that consequential. Didn’t brains and character matter more? She was striking much in the way Zelda Fitzgerald had been—a beauty you could not capture in photographs, more in movement, gesture, articulation. Somewhere, not far from the small, provincial town where Jade lived, where people stared at you if you did not fit a mold, there were people like her who were different and proud of their differences and she looked forward to meeting them one day. In the meantime, she would have to deal with challenges.
Growing up, many of them had to do with her brother, who was two years older. Although Jade garnered high marks in school, not much was made of it so...
December 8th, 2016
after playing, my upright
kay bass, my fingers
still loving, the birds eye maple
neck & strings:
my left arm
hurt the next day.
after playing my old...
November 14th, 2016
In the back of a closet, on top of a shelf, under two empty shoeboxes, and behind a small, carry-on bag lurked a humped, black, plastic case. Years of knocking about in the backs of vans and offstage in smoky clubs had etched lines into its surface. Every song had scuffed another memory: Dewey Redman’s “Imagination” or Clifford Brown’s “Night in Tunisia”. An accidental kick from a ska fan had left a dent even after the shell had popped back into place. For twenty years, it had remained closed, a relic of temptation, while inside a saxophone slumbered, waiting for its silent call to beckon again. It was patient. It had time.
Nathan Gold heard the call. It was a Saturday morning in mid-spring as he returned from racing his mountain bike along the Long Beach boardwalk. Pumping the pedals, he glided up the...
November 1st, 2016
A marsh harrier soars above the Norfolk broads
circling higher and higher
rather like a Gillespie trumpet solo that rises and rises
to dizzying heights of pitch and volume
eventually the bird slides behind billowing clouds
and vanishes into distance
so the trumpet reaches and...
October 4th, 2016
There had to be hundreds of people standing in the rain, waiting to get into Misty’s Supper Club on Lenox Avenue for my brother Ishmael’s memorial. I swallowed the lump of grief in the back of my throat and surveyed the crowd, fans and protégé’s of his music, as varied as a pot of jambalaya.
Some people recognized me from seeing...
September 20th, 2016
For years, the autobiography proved elusive,
speeding east like the double-jointed run
that skipped from white keys to black,
soldiers chased from Central Avenue battles.
Then the book took a rest, hiding out
in a nondescript store among academic texts,
tomes whose covers bore geometric shapes.
Cardboard screamed orange, red, and white,
the slow burn of a
September 13th, 2016
I watch my hand remove the phone from the wall above the couch’s arm and there is a sweat in my ear as I hear a distant Miles Davis. I am called by the distorted voice of Miles Davis rasping my name.
John, he says, are you busy?
I let my eyes blur into my mother’s sofa, melting a monotonous no out of my mouth toward the receiver. I feel the room sloshing peacefully in waves around me and the buzzing of my lips from my mouthpiece and reed. My saxophone sits strewn across the floor along with my...
September 3rd, 2016
Rikki spun, spun
and leaped, twirled
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
August 25th, 2016
“I don’t know…I still don’t see it.” I grumble to myself, sloping my head down in a perfectly coordinated position with the rest of my body. Slope. Coordinated. It all just makes me think of math. Math. “That’s it,” I tell myself silently, still looking around the empty halls, though no one is there. I sigh. I suppose it may not really be a fact, but everyone knows that statistically minded people, like me, see numbers. But people like her – well, I guess they see what I’m looking at. “No,” I run a hand through my gelled hair. She would see it all differently. What did she say again? I check my phone and then casually hold up what she said it would look like to the picture. “A black parked car with white windows near the dock in a blazing sunlight overlooking the ocean.” I focus on the...
August 13th, 2016
The faraway trumpet’s trill drifted into the home we shared. The tune stirred the heavy air. It should have been spring weather, but a heatwave had taken over our parish. It made the air heavy and made us languid during the days.
Mama hummed along with the hand-me-down song while she worked, stirring the wash or cooking supper or mixing herbs. Her mama taught her to hear it, same as she taught me. It was as constant as the wind.
Mama’s gray strands peeked from beneath a dark blue kerchief, the majority braided then twirled in an age-thinned bun. She didn’t know how old she was. Best she could figure, she was...
August 1st, 2016
Playing bottleneck guitar, an octogenarian.
His arthritic fingers coax a life’s history,
ring changes of love and loss,
sketch joy’s birth in pain,
the rhythm an invitation...
July 25th, 2016
I was playing my weekly gig at Café Reinhardt when Bella, one of the waitresses, whispered in my ear, “They want you out back.”
She had disturbed me from a zone. I had been through all of my arrangements and was improving on the chords to “Minor Swing.”
“They?” I asked.
She shrugged her shoulders. Straight to the point, no small talk, Bella was my kind of gal. In the second it took to place my guitar on my guitar stand a million thoughts circled around in my mind. Did Chad, the drummer, want to borrow money again? Had the musician’s union caught on to the fact I wasn’t paying my dues? Another one of the agent Jimmy’s scams? Groupies? Oh yeah, jazz musicians haven’t had groupies under the age of forty-five since the 1940s.
I stood up, and as Bella was strolling to a table near the front door, she said, “Take your guitar.”
Ah, nothing complicated just someone wanting to test out my chops before a gig. People can be peculiar when it comes to inviting musicians into their home. They want to meet you, form a relationship, and get the feel for...
July 20th, 2016
I wonder if it will take another body to stream into the Infinite….
For this was the odd idea that stirred me eerie
Like a push into the wild past from my future spirit to relive my final day,
Or a siren calling me to steal the virtuose of fire.
I was looking for Charlie Parker that night,
Improvising my footsteps under porch lights which spotted
July 13th, 2016
T-Bone Williams was the first
to use the
double-D harmonica &
he employed some lyrics that
seemed compatible —
this was way before Bobby
sometime in the late ‘40s when
he did his 12-string
July 11th, 2016
It was a persistent and gentle nudge—always was. He knew who was prodding him and what she would say without turning, so he continued to run his fingers up and down the keys—there was a major seventh followed by a fifth interval; repeat several times, arpeggiate, transpose—
“Sir? I’m sorry sir—”
The nudging again. He spoke as if distracted—which he was: “Yes?”
“Some of the people are trying to work,” she said.
“Have them come and talk to me,” he replied, and continued to play.
The barista was put-off for a moment, but she jostled him again. “If you could just play a little quieter—”
The words were like daggers. They weren’t new, they weren’t original, and they brought hate like bile to his mind and body; coursing in and throughout him like a thousand...
July 9th, 2016
Why is my race your foe needling you to lord over me, saving me from my own savagery?
Why is my skin color a phobia gnawing at your innards,
making door locks snap as I approach?
Why is my punishment swift revealing deep seated prejudices, exposing unrecognized biases?
Why is my street flashing “blue”
when verdicts and fines from the 2008 meltdown are reversed?
Why is my excessive “heat” normal...
July 7th, 2016
Young and Gifted and Little Girl Blue
wants only to play classical ways of
Bach, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Beethoven,
but Curtis – Philly, perhaps Carnegie too, whether prejudice or preference,
doesn’t think her particular hue
belongs with the masters, so she skips circus tents, every star in the sky,
June 24th, 2016
Barnacles scratch the hull of a voice
that grinds coral to grit in salty water
while a tune plays the tide
which whispers sandy beaches
and blows free on the wind.
Ships far from port halt in the night
to hear the fog-horn song,
to feel, to know and share
June 7th, 2016
Grabbing the blue basket of bottles I’d promised
to take to a recycle plant and then forgotten,
I drove too fast down a twisting mountain road,
safe in a young man’s faith that death is abstract
truth until a radio voice — speaking over Johnny Hodges’
sweet tenor on his “Take the A Train” — intones,
May 17th, 2016
“Liner Notes for ‘Stardust’ — In Seven Choruses” is a cycle of short poems framed as imaginary liner notes and prompted by poet Doug Fowler’s favorite musical covers of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust.” In essence, according to Fowler, they are “imaginary liner notes for a real song about an imaginary song about love.”
The cycle is also partially a tribute to Chu Berry, who died as the result of a car accident in Conneaut, Ohio, in 1941, not far from where Fowler lives....
April 25th, 2016
I’ll have it spare as the reverence you feel for silence
in your long melodic lines, where the music cries
in the sacred spaces you leave between the notes…
I’ll have the long curve of your back bending over
your shadow on the keys as you play “Turn Out
the Stars”, written for your father when he died,
Blue Notes stretching out as if you’d have them last...
April 15th, 2016
Oh, Mister Silver, please please please,
don’t make me beat my feet
no more no more no more.
I’ve been finger poppin’, thinking
about Juicy Lucy, dreaming
of some sweet stuff,
wanting to come on home to some...
April 9th, 2016
Some lives turn out healthy and long, some more fulfilled than long. Bro was sick and much older. He passed away last spring, so his voice sounds both new and familiar to me, as it whispers,
“Go to my place and visit my old room.”
“I’ll let you know.”
An ascending airliner outside wakes me up, and I realize I was dreaming. I’m still yawning as I look up a weekend bus, but the online timetable shows more blanks than connections.
It’s dry September weather, so I grab my key to his door, fill up my water bottle, and make this a bike trip in heat haze instead, like the...
April 6th, 2016
The port of Casablanca was crammed with Vichy officers, soldiers, cops, thieves and criminals. Each night I slept behind sand dunes, and each morning, washed in the freezing sea and shook myself dry in the winter wind. My shirt and trousers were stiff with salt and stuck to my chest, arms and legs. I figured it would be easy to steal a sweater or coat, grab it off a café chair while its owner ate and drank. But each time I stuck my head inside a restaurant and started weaving between tables, the owner threatened to call the cops.
No cops, no officers, no father whipping me, never again. I’d lie low, steal what I needed, and owe no one a damned thing.
Ten days after I arrived in Casablanca, a shipload of...
March 2nd, 2016
She stood in a room at The Met glancing at the painting on the wall, which was of two women kissing. From her vantage point, standing slightly away and to the side, the two women lying together interlocked in bed appeared cushioned awkwardly in space, free-floating yet connected.
The painting was by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, the alcoholic French dwarf artist, and she tried to imagine what it was like living when he did in Paris at the time of the painting, 1892, and what it might have been like for these two prostitutes and others like them who often turned to one another for relief from a world of men then.
Mireille, it was reported, was one of the girls in the brothel in the Rue d’Amboise, when Lautrec was commissioned to create a series of panels about the lives of the girls there, and she was one of his favorites. He visited the salons of the brothels in the Rue des Moulins and Rue d’Amboise many times to study and paint the women, who felt very free to be...
February 2nd, 2016
Put the Blame on Mame Rita Hayworth in Gilda (1946)
There was never quite a dame as hot as Rita in Put the Blame on Mame
Gilda with luscious red locks
And strapless slit dress
We can imagine her while dancing in a state of undress -but I digress
Hair wanton and free expressing sexuality
In ample quantity
Gilda/Rita undulating to jazzy accompaniment in sultry climes
A time capsule of those forties’ times
January 25th, 2016
Songs overflow from doors
opening to the sidewalk
where neon lights
baptize the weak, stirring the curiosity of
a night strung tight
while others pray in alleys
whispering their sins
under a celestial curtain as
stars cross behind the black
of space where not
a molecule is out of place
January 16th, 2016
is what a brotha
feels like after he’s had
a good piece of
i know now why mama didn’t want us
playing secular music in her home
and why white kids love
r and b so much
it was heroin
for your ears
ray was the only brotha
January 15th, 2016
uncle ping made my lemon chicken sing
with dueling jazzaphones
and unexpected tunes
there was no moon cake after
but the honey walnut prawns
laid down their own
January 11th, 2016
We like to immortalize talent in this culture, and in so doing, often decontextualize it, absolving it of complexity and stains. Media especially likes to make angels out of demons, and vice versa, stripping the truth out of images and ideas.
In the case of Chet Baker, William Claxton’s photographs helped especially to immortalize the singer and trumpeter, fixing him in time and space, freezing an idea of him as beautiful, ethereal, ideal.
Chet Baker is almost always remembered as the...
January 10th, 2016
the pain contained within those
seemingly effortless sounds
lifts us from our couches
to applaud years
after the event
the tone arches stretches slinks struts
leaps to fence tops and deftly prances
December 18th, 2015
The music theory professors
took their treatises
to the dumpster,
their pianos to the tuner,
then took themselves
and their students
into the fields
where timbres circled
November 25th, 2015
Camp looked through glass doors and across the shoulderless highway. A patch of grass across the road was covered with white trailers washed clean by the rain. He stared out a side window at the brown back of a gas station. A red and yellow sign, mounted so high he had to twist his neck to see it, seemed like it should have been turning but sat still against a gray sky.
What do you find in a bus station? Long waits under dirty fluorescents, grimy floor and seats, gloom on scattered faces. Soup, coffee and candy vending machines. If someone could gather it up, all the pieces a bus station’s handed down through the years, you could start a museum. You could cover the walls with...
November 16th, 2015
LITTLE LIZA JANE
Sing me up. Bring the jazz
for the baptizing of souls,
living strong, breathing cool
fires from river running out of
the Ohio snaking down mightily
to Louisiana where the steps
get wide and songs speak
of folks left behind, walking
river banks, looking south,
November 11th, 2015
She was born into a family of musicians. Her father had played bass in a jazz band and traveled with Dizzy until an accident had cost him his arm and his career. Getting out of a limousine that had stalled on the highway en route to a gig in Chicago, he opened the car door to get out at the wrong time, just as a truck was passing.
“C’est la vie” he always said about that, as if it meant something. He had to go on, a musician without a limb, without his instrument, because he was a man and had children and a legacy to uphold through them, but inside, where nothing touched him, he felt as torn as his shoulder had been that night. Something had shifted. Only his wife, his gentle, meek and attendant wife who saw him sitting at the edge of their bed each night head bowed counting his blessings, all but one, only she knew what...
November 1st, 2015
Dizzy in Thurston Howell garb steps samba-like
through the airport exit. On film, he and his entourage
move like dancers tapping clave in a Las Vegas
revue called A Night in Havana. His embrace
of space defies ground and grounding.
Amiri, you called him high priest, royalty,
a monarch who flew you from dusty bebop
October 24th, 2015
Slow slow slooooooooooooooow; the river was practically dry, a river in name only, a few puddles on the mudflats where standing water reflected the cottony clouds that moved perpetually east, dropping nothing anymore but empty promises. Unsettling in the most literal sense. Many people sold their houses or just abandoned them, heading north, and those who stayed finally got serious about...
August 22nd, 2015
Roger Singer, our most prolific and accomplished contributing poet, recently submitted three new poems for our consideration, which we proudly publish here. Singer reports that he has now 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...
August 18th, 2015
Tumbling out of the second story window —
an accident, I swear — passing the first floor,
and, “You’ll never make it as a musician, Chet!”,
an endless string of notes plays by my ear,
one solo interlude strung out forever,
reaching, reaching, for the ultimate chord,
my sideman lost in a tinkle of piano keys,
the percussion of the vibraphone,
July 10th, 2015
Three times a year, we award a writer who submits, in our opinion, the best original, previously unpublished work.
John Hyde Barnard of Los Angeles, California is the winner of the 39th Jerry Jazz Musician New Short Fiction Award, announced and published for the first time on July 3, 2015.
by John Hyde Barnard
He brought the cigarette up to his lips. As he took a hit the orange
glow briefly lit his face and faded back into shadow as he slowly exhaled
a cloud of blue smoke. He crushed the butt on the windowsill, sparks and
dying embers leaving a trail that quickly became black and cold. As he
flicked the butt into the night air he glanced over the rooftops. It
seemed the horizon was a shade lighter. Had he been sitting there that
Unable to sleep since arriving at the apartment some hours earlier,
he sat at the open window: musing, arguing, longing and laughing with his
thoughts. He had not discovered an epiphany or revelation, only a comfort
with the warm night. It was the first warm night of the season; the
unmistakable promise of
July 3rd, 2015
Paula Hackett’s four newly published poems include pieces on Max Roach, Billie Holiday and Milt Jackson…
Sometimes when nature is quiet
and the moon shines just where you are
I can hear you singing the spirit world to rest
I remember as a child, your voice would
wrap me in cotton
as you felt the blows for all of us
Born into a country that tried to
make your voice illegal
poise and elegance was your response
And tonight like so many
June 20th, 2015
Chantal Doolittle wasn’t like anybody else she knew. Who else, for example, would stand transfixed before a record player or stereo, still as stone while listening to music — not merely attending to it — her very cells taking in the song, calculating and absorbing. “That girl is special,” Nana Esther always said.
When she was a kid and Motown was the thing, Chan would sing Marvin Gaye’s tunes to her grandmother in their high ceilinged apartment, where, more often than not it was soul music, the harmonizing voices of The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Supremes, drifting in from the surrounding windows and disappearing into the sky that was perennially a washed out gray, as if there was an invisible flag always at half mast, hanging outside heaven. From the time she was five or six, all Chan had to do was hear a song once and she would know it. She knew all the Motown tunes word for word, and sang them right on key, perfectly, which is why Nana Esther dubbed her, “my little songbird.”
Of course, there was nothing little about Chantal, but, being her grandmother’s one and only, she was “a little one” to her. Chantal was tall, big for her age, and when she developed as a young woman, busty too. She stood out even before she opened her mouth, due to her attitude. Her nana had taught her to be “confident as a man,” and she had seemingly...
May 30th, 2015