Baffled sound distinguishes each instrument.
Oblational as bread and wine, the symphony is offered up
Daliance with obligatory matters has no place here.
Abiotic as a stone, the tone still is lively:
cabaret saxophone and trumpet indiscretion.
February 2nd, 2010
Something You Can Count On
I had, once, a Captain Midnight ring
that told the weather, or so they said.
Frankly, I don’t remember Captain Midnight,
didn’t listen to him much.
Don’t know what made him special,
what made him Captain Midnight, for that matter.
But I didn’t need to, knew in my 1947 heart of hearts
December 27th, 2009
TRIMMING THE UNKNOWN
I open the door to the jetsam of black curls
Cast into a linoleum sea
As fluorescent light glints off scissors and smiles.
Smelling the shaving cream and my own fear,
I sit in a distant chair and pick up a magazine,
Glance up from time to time
December 22nd, 2009
Pantoum: Carson McCullers and Misanthropy at Yaddo
An odd child, I sprawled in bed, conjured her square pale face,
Propelled myself into her enormous dark eyes
And imagined, for years, that I curled inside her mind.
At Yaddo I drank sherry from a thermos, strode lank-legged
March 22nd, 2009
An overgrown trail is abruptly halted by a set of rusting metal gates,
Secured to a crooked post by a battered padlock and feeble chain.
A grey guard tower lies out of sight, studying the unfolding scene intently,
From the dense undergrowth where fresh raindrops glisten in the new-born sunlight.
January 22nd, 2009
Pondering the Musical Style of Thelonious Monk
January 4th, 2009
My father was a Catholic jazz musician
Say one Our Father, two Hail Marys,
and listen to twelve recordings of John Coltrane.
Dip your fingers in the font of holy water,
make your way to a pew,
genuflect, take your seat,
and meditate on the perfection of Thelonious chords.
August 6th, 2008
BLACK SONG FOR BILLIE HOLIDAY
The night the blue saxophones died
You still remain in the spotlight’s ivory heat
A riddle that puzzles the heart
Snatching from the soil of catastrophe
A nugget of perfect sound
Glowing like an iridescent candle
January 5th, 2008
MATCHBOOK: The Spinnaker (Sausalito)
in memory of Bill Evans
by Michael Harper
Adrift in your own spittle
(eyebrows on vibrato knuckles)
we are across the bay
but reality hits in waves...
May 22nd, 2007
FOR COUNT BASIE
On this day, your birthday, I want
to celebrate, although you passed last
century. I crave some birthday cake,
so I put on “One O’clock Jump”
one more time to soothe my soul, allow
your fingers to loosen my tight, sore
muscles that have taken hold, the ones
February 22nd, 2007
9 23 99: Coltrane Notes on the Millenium
by Michael Harper
no protection still
that is not churchdriven
James Weldon Johnson’s alternate tune
January 22nd, 2007
The Life of Jackie Mclean
by Michael Harper
A critic trying to pass writes me about crossover played some
couldn’t make it got his Ph. D
(he’s onto new changes an advance man now active in grants
August 8th, 2006
“Born Into a World Knowing”
This will happen
Oh god we say just give
me a few more
and don’t let it be
August 1st, 2005
Because I Am
In mem. Sidney Bechet, 1897-1959
Because I am a memorious old man
I’ve been asked to write about you, Papa Sidney,
Improvising in standard meter on a well-known
Motif, as you did all those nights in Paris
And the world. I remember once in Chicago
June 29th, 2005
Soul Make a Path Through Shouting
for Elizabeth Eckford
Little Rock, Arkansas, 1957
Thick at the schoolgate are the ones
Rage has twisted
Into minotaurs, harpies
So you must walk past the pincers,
October 17th, 2004
Between Two Wars
Remember that breakfast one November —
Cold black grapes smelling faintly
Of the cork they were packed in.
Hard rolls with hot, white flesh,
And thick, honey sweetened chocolate?
And the parties at night; the gin and the tangos?
The torn hair nets, the lost cuff links?
April 29th, 2002