POEM: Friday night at the Vanguard

Hard as it is to believe, I went to my first show at the Village Vanguard in New York tonight. The band was Terrell Stafford, Bruce Barth, Tim Warfield, Peter Washington and Dana Hall. I wrote this in the dark during the set. I wanted it to seem a bit noirish, thus “the blond.” I’m not sure if that’s OK.

Friday night at the Vanguard

there’s something about the way the blond
is tilting her head, laying it back
against the cushions like she’s dreaming

— stop —

now we’re in church and a “go ‘head”
comes from stage left
where the trumpeter sits snapping his fingers
in what would be a cliche in other circumstances

the blond leans forward
she has a cleft in her chin like an action hero
on her it’s intriguing

— can I get an “amen”? —

it’s a ballad again
she leans over so far you’d think
she had a stomach ache, but she’s smiling

9=3+3+3, or, A Night At Small’s

I went to Small’s in the Village tonight to see Bruce Barth. I ran into several people I knew and some I’d never met in person. The whole experience felt like a poem, so it seemed only fitting to make it one.

One of my favorite movies is An American In Paris. At the beginning of the film, Gene Kelly does some narration and mentions that he went to Paris because the great artists before him had gone there. I feel that way about New York and poetry, and also New York and jazz. I didn’t change any names in this poem to protect the innocent, either.

9=3+3+3, or, A Night At Small’s

on the train, this:
if you don’t change direction,
you may end up where you’re headed


the sage is sleeping soundly
slumped over against the pole
if this were Japan, someone
would wake him at his stop

or more likely he would awaken
as if by magic
some shared ethnic telepathy
connecting all Japanese to their destination

but this is New York
no such enlightenment
is forthcoming

Louis Armstrong is smiling
in argyle socks
a black Buddha before bebop

Rebecca has blood-red nails
that look jet-dark in this dim light
her double-jointed pinky bent on the bar
her name is alliterative, as is the artist’s
who guesses it

and, for that matter, the piano player’s
(and his title)

the Japanese photographer says
he is ready to go home
twenty-four years is long enough

meanwhile the boy from Pasadena gets the seal
of approval from the boy from Brooklyn
it’s official: he’s a New Yorker now

the mirror next to the piano is reflected in another mirror
looked at from the right angle
there are an infinite number of piano players
(writing Hamlet?)
and an unending row of archers

people clap when they’re supposed to
like a ritual prayer that’s lost its meaning
in the observance

even the photographers look like musicians
and the temperamental cat is not a euphemism