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Category: My poems

stone #24 (another stone in Japanese)

Listen to this poem in Japanese using the player above.

This one was harder for me to write than yesterday’s and I’m a bit less certain that I’ve accurately conveyed the meaning.

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Miles Davis わ “All Blues” を弾きます
正しい考えでも現在の状態わそんあに悪くないです

Miles Davis plays “All Blues”
it’s the right idea but things aren’t that bad

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part of a river of stones

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stone #23 (my first stone in Japanese)

Listen to the Japanese version of this poem using the player above.

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今日は他の日々のようです
お茶を飲む
詩を書く
音楽に聞く
君について考える

today is like other days
I drink tea
I write a poem
I listen to music
I think of you

/ / /

part of a river of stones

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stone #22

Listen using the player above.

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I wake up to the clarinet and trombone
go to sleep to the cornet and saxophone
in between I feel the rhythm of the drum
as I wait for what’s coming to come

/ / /

part of a river of stones

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stone #21

Listen using the player above.

coconuts in a winter bus shelter
like finding snowballs on the beach in Maui

/ / /

part of a river of stones

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stone #20

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Manhattan photo by Jason Crane (2011)

Fred Astaire is dancing
beneath the haunted building
while the make-believe Irishman
plays reels down below

/ / /

part of a river of stones

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POEM: in which we cross east 27th street at high tide

Listen to this poem using the player above.

I went to see Jeff “Tain” Watts, Robert Hurst and Steve Coleman tonight at Jazz Standard. I ended up chatting with Coleman and John Szwed, author of the definitive book on Sun Ra. I put into this poem bits of our conversation, song titles and phrases inspired by the setting and performance.

in which we cross east 27th street at high tide

ancient ways, gold days & spaceways
with an iced tea & a side of fries

how’s the weather in Bahia?
here in New York the street-corner
gutter is a river with no ferry boat

so we turn the string bass on its side
use the bow as a paddle
& since Michael isn’t around
Robert rows us ashore

to the warm lands
where we will know despair no more

(catch the Hail Mary as it spills from her lips)

“how ’bout a hand for the band, the guys?
it ain’t me — we’d play all night”

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stone #18

Listen using the player above.

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the house is just stirring
but I am holding on to sleep
as if it were the warmth
of an absent lover

/ / /

part of a river of stones

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POEM: I Cannot Threaten Death (a poem for MLK)

Listen to this poem using the player above.

On April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave one of his most important speeches, “Beyond Vietnam.” (You can read or listen to the speech here.)

In 2010, I used the text of that speech to make an erasure poem called “I Cannot Threaten Death.” In other words, I printed out the complete text and then erased most of the words. I kept the remaining words in their original order.

You can hear me read this poem by clicking on the player above. The recording is from my January 5, 2011, reading at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY. You can also download a PDF of the poem.

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stone #16

Listen using the player above.

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his small hand in mine
“I love you, Dada”
my arm around his shoulders
“I love you, too”

/ / /

part of a river of stones

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stone #15

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Justice for all, service to others and a love that liberates people. — Tavis Smiley’s summary of Martin Luther King’s philosophy.

I have a dream, too
and on the cold days I fear
that a dream is all it will ever be

but when my boys are playing
laughing in the sun-warmed yard
I am hopeful for our future

/ / /

part of a river of stones

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stone #14

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I need a Life Positioning System
to orient myself among once-familiar landmarks
does Garmin make one of those?

/ / /

part of a river of stones

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POEM: The Blues

Listen to this poem using the player above.

I wrote this on the bus from Albany to New York City.

The Blues

1.

it all goes back to the blues
that’s what they’d have you believe
the gravel your boots crunch
must lead to a dusty crossroad
every baby’s cry is a bottleneck slide
on the worn strings of a scarred guitar
whiskey runs from the kitchen faucet
the radiator’s busted so body heat will have to do

2.

snowscape bus rides to big city lights
he’s seated across from a pale redhead
who looks like she’s crying but isn’t
he pretends to be watching the trees
safe in the anonymity of sunglasses
they won’t be meeting later in a juke joint
she won’t nurse a beer or lean in close
to hear him over the sound of the band

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stone #13

Listen using the player above.

/ / /

the trick to travel
isn’t remembering
your underwear or socks
it’s knowing which books to take

/ / /

part of a river of stones

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