Listen to this poem using the player above.
The music in the audio version of the poem is “Buddy Bolden’s Blues” performed by Sidney Bechet.
I never heard Buddy Bolden say a goddamned thing
never saw Count Basie swing
never felt Duke love me madly
never heard Prez bend a note so sadly
never saw Miles though I was alive
never watched Mingus struggle to survive
never danced round and round with Monk
never moved to Lockjaw’s roundhouse funk
never smelled the flower in Billie’s hair
never tasted Coltrane’s thickly burning air
never swung my girl to Chick Webb’s drums
never stared amazed at Tatum’s thumbs
never laughed as Ella made up the words
never cried as Lacy called down the birds
never asked Jackie what made him tick
never nursed Charlie when he was sick
never bopped when Dizzy beed
never copped what Dexter’d need
never thought they had it made
never forget a note they played
yeah, but you heard them & that’s the message — ghosts on old vinyl, on stretchy tape, on crystal clear CDs — Mingus’ struggle is in his music, as is Dexter’s, Coltrane’s, even Jelly Roll’s — The wonder of technology that allows us even to hear Eric Dolphy actually say “When you hear music, after it’s over, it’s gone in the air, you can never capture it again.” Thank you for this poem.
Thanks for your comments, Dan.
So it turns out that Buddy Bolden’s Blues is a fart song, & Bellocq out-lived Bolden, & I’ve just added “Pretty Baby” (Brook Shield’s first movie) to my Netflicks list to see if it’s as good as I remember it.