Monthly Archives: May 2007

Green Dolphin Street (draft)

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Author’s note:  This is an early draft of a story I’ve wanted to write for a while.  I’m a HUGE jazz fan, and I wanted to express a story that incorporated my love of the art form.  There’s also a little Murakami influence, though I wouldn’t compare this to him, for obvious reasons.  Anyways, I would love your opinion, your editing, your confusion.  There are errors in here, I just can’t see them.  Please comment/edit.  Enjoy!

Hacky was skin and bones in a black Coltrane tee and tight leather pants, his alto sax swaying violently over the faded image of his hero, sweat pouring from his stringy black hair.

He was a rock star playing “Naima” in double-time. He was a drugged-out soul whose only outlet to others was his music. He was lost, yet he could be found every Friday night at the keyboard lounge, speeding up jazz standards and mutilating them with his frenzy.

The crowd was small but enraptured, mostly lonely thirty-ish women who were lost in his hips, his lips, and his glazed green eyes. They were the same ones that always came, long islands scattered across their tiny tables, occasionally knocked over by their crossed and kicking legs. They seemed to know something the greater public didn’t: Hacky was an emerging jazz giant in an era where there were no giants to be found.

Behind Hacky a trio of hard-driving characters plodded away and attempted to keep up with his derailed train solos. George, Jimmy, and Mac tried everything they could to not drown in polyphonic sheets. Everything was wet with their sweat and vibrating at their call. They weren’t bad, and they let Hacky shine.

When the last, ecstatic note of “Naima” was held perfectly by Hacky for over a minute, the women almost lost their skirts, the band almost fainted, and the lights in the club flickered respectfully. That one note had never been rendered so well since ‘Trane pulled it off on Giant Steps nearly a half century before that night, and most everybody in the club sensed it.

Something in the molecules shifted. The molecules of the women in the crowd, the backing band, the club, and Hacky himself. He trailed the note off and fell dead onto the stage, his silver saxophone tumbling across the wood and finally resting against the back leg of the house piano.

***

The writer sat back into the dark corner behind his table and watched silently as the paramedics tried and failed to save the musician’s life. The band stood off to the side, smoking cigarettes and shaking, and the women hovered to one another for the first time and hugged mercilessly.

He didn’t move because he didn’t need to. He only wished to absorb, a self-conscious chronicler of events that would surely go down in jazz history. The falling of the shooting star against the Midwest night sky. The moment when the heavens broke on that final note. The recalling of the ancestors.

He saw it play out in real time, unbeknownst to the patrons of the club, when Charles Mingus sauntered in through the back, face covered by the shadow of his enormous fedora, a shimming gold bass over his back. He shook the rain off his trench coat and took a seat at the next table from the writer.

“Where’s Miles? That motherfucker,” he grumbled, tucking his bass into the other chair at his table.

One of the paramedics stood up slowly and looked at the clock. “Time of death: ‘round ‘bout midnight.”

***

The club was shut down for the night, expelling the twenty or so women onto the street. They looked around with wide eyes and huddled together, wiping tears and quickly talking through trembling lips.

The writer shambled out behind them, staying in shadows, and lit a cigarette. He waited patiently as the women filtered away, their voices becoming more and more distant from the alleyway. He lit another cigarette, smoked it slowly, and re-entered the club. He had his own key, and it was his building, his club.

***

“A Night in Tunisia” sailed through the corners of the club, but at half-volume. It was all they could conjure. Mingus strummed away on stage, his head down, left foot stomping, while Miles and Hacky played the tune. Duke smiled from behind the house piano and Max Roach sweated through unheard of polyrhythmic masterpieces.

The writer sat back in the corner and bobbed his head slightly, stroking his bush beard with one hand and stirring a scotch on the rocks with the other. The place was empty except for him and the ghosts.

“What the hell, man?” asked Coltrane, who had suddenly stepped out from the bathroom and was slouched at the table where Mingus had rested earlier. “I mean, shit. That dude even has my face on his shirt! What the hell, man?”

The writer raised his tumbler into the air and spoke in a grainy, smoked-out voice, “No disrespect, but you’ve been usurped.”

“U-what?” Coltrane sneered and leaned in.

“Your glory has been stolen, my man. You should’ve wished him to stay alive.”

“You mean Miles ain’t gonna play with me any more? Well fuck that, I can do my own thing.” He stood up, slung his tenor around his neck, and stormed back into the bathroom. When “Tunisia” wound down you could hear his notes from the stalls, dissonant and frenzied.

***

The smoke from the writer’s cigarette rolled through the club, breathing and expanding, seeping through the band as they tried an up-tempo version of “Milestones.” They were thwarted by Miles’ refusal to move on to the solos until they all “figured out what the fuck they were playing.”

‘Trane was now seated at the bar, hunched over, a needle flopped over his forearm. His saxophone was nowhere to be seen.

The writer watched as a woman mysteriously entered the club, even though the door was locked. She was tall, curvy, and knock-dead beautiful, carrying herself in a long tight black dress. Her long brown hair sailed over her bare shoulders when she walked, and the strong scent of sandalwood emanated from her dark, Indian skin. She sat across from the writer and reached into a small red purse, pulling out a platinum cigarette case.

“This is the most amazing thing,” she said, lighting a square and blowing smoke out of the corner of her thin lips. “I’m in a dream, and I realize it! Can you believe that?”

The writer lit his own cigarette. “Yes, I can. But you’re new here,” he said.

“I’ve never had a lucid dream before. And this band. . . they’re great. I’ve never really listened to jazz before, either.”

“You don’t know who those guys are?”

“No. They’re good though.”

The writer scratched his head and looked momentarily confused. The band launched into a slow blues jam, one he was unfamiliar with. Smoke from his cigarette drifted toward and through the woman. “Do you have a name?” he asked.

“Yeah. Um. . .” she started, then seemed to realize that she had forgotten it. “I guess I can’t remember,” she finally said, wide-eyed.

“It’s very normal.”

“To not know your name? It kind of bothers me.”

“But this isn’t your normal reality, lady. You said you were dreaming, remember?”

“Oh yeah! But shouldn’t I know my name? Everything is so real, you know?”

The writer stood up, snuffed out his cigarette on the ashtray between them, and beckoned for the woman to come with him. They walked past the stage as Hacky began an uncharacteristically mellow solo. He was holding the blues in his hand, in his horn, and milking it for what it was worth. The woman halted and soaked him in.

When the writer returned to fetch her, she said “He’s so beautiful. His music is so beautiful.”

And that point, she disappeared like the image on an old television. Her image danced for a short second in front of the stage, compressed into a small dot, then ceased to exist.

“Shit,” grumbled the writer, returning to his seat. He had wanted her to stay and read his poetry about dreams and death, and maybe he could’ve seduced her, but apparently she was too perfect to be dead. She was just dreaming, and that meant she wouldn’t come back.

***

But she did. Four nights later.

“My name is Paula. I remember that now,” she said, taking the seat across from the writer. The band began twittering through an Eric Dolphy composition, bending the air around them surreal vibrations. He leaned forward and looked in her large, dark eyes. He seemed to be searching for something.

“Are you dreaming?” he asked, leaning back in the velvet chair.

“I think so,” she said, perplexed.

“You think so?”

“This is different. I’m not worried about waking up, for one. I can smell the smoke in here, and the band seems more. . . I don’t know. . . real. Alive.”

Paula turned to the band and focused on Hacky, who was standing off to the side while Miles blurted through a punchy solo. He was watching her, his eyes unblinking. The writer heard her breath quicken.

“He sees me,” she said, quietly.

“Yes,” the writer replied bluntly, lighting a cigarette. He seemed to be wrestling with something in his mind. The beautiful woman had fallen, once again, for the musician, and not the writer.

“I’m dead, aren’t I?” she asked, reaching into her purse.

“Yup,” the writer grumbled, exhaling smoke.

Meanwhile, Hacky had made his way down from the stage, his ghost moving through dim blue lights and sheets of smoke to reach the back table. He sat down next to Paula and stuck out a shaking pale hand.

“Wow. Wow. Wow,” was all he could muster, followed by a short series of rapid fire sniffles. Onstage, his music elevated him to the level of a God, but in person he was nothing but a skinny, coked-out musician who spent all his money on drugs.

Paula clasped his hand in both of hers. “Your playing is incredible,” she cooed.

“Thank you s-s-so much,” he squeaked through purple lips.

“Go play some more for me, baby,” she intoned, not unlike Lauren Bacall.

“Yes ma’am,” Hacky said, running back to the stage and almost interrupting the final bars of Miles’ solo with his inability to hold himself back for Paula. Miles glared at him and shook his head when Hacky almost shot into the refrain too soon.

The writer watched Paula’s back as she rocked her head to the final seconds of “Out To Lunch.” He admired the shape of her shoulders, the fine dark hairs that trailed down from her neck to the top of her back, and the softly defined shoulderblades that moved slightly as she swayed to the music. He lit a new smoke from the butt of the old one and sighed. “Play some more blues,” the writer whispered through a mouth crowded with smoke.

Across the room, ‘Trane coughed and waved an indifferent hand toward the stage, his image beginning a long, slow fade that would last for centuries.

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your heartland

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shredded and lost in a haze of hope smoke sings
whispers of memory filtered through black coffee paradise

illusory crosses with the moon at the epicenter reflect
blood red mushrooms on the front lawn

cheap trucker hat emblazoned with salmon observes
the family around the fire

coatings of pink antacid dementia and the
tiny paranoid bedroom with a bright tin roof

pit stops blown tires and misunderstandings mean
you could have been born into the wrong family

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the arrogant and uncomfortable truth of things

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I’m putting up the poems for good this time.

I’m hanging them outside
on that rusty fence made of wire
hoping the poems with suffer tetanus and die.

I’m wadding them up
lighting them on fire
or just plain deleting them to oblivion.

I’m serious.
I can’t get anything done
with these fucking poems hanging around.

But-
It seems the more I hide them away
the more I see your poems.

Those poor little poems
packaged so pretty
with nothing inside except dust and spit.

I just shake my head
pull the old bastards out
and tinker some more.

Somebody has to do it
if only for the love of all poetry.

Somebody has to balance out the shit.

-this poem appears in Calliope nerve XI

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Gold Chains (Poems in Dedication to the Whooshay #3)

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Up close
the bling looks like mirrors
the mirrors look like infinity
and the sweet sound of his voice
comes rushing in.

The Whooshay once said that gold chains
were worth less than a bath in
corn flakes and skim milk.

To prove the point
he had us all bathe in cereal.

How good it was.

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W

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Bush’s smirking head transposed over
Bush’s serious-face head transposed over
a burning Bush,
the flames of wisdom sucked up and under
Bush’s flaring nostrils, transposed over
military weaponry,

people once thought he was small
like a mouse in his father’s shadow,
he would often mull these things over
with cocaine plastered onto a wet nostril,

but he’s a large large man now
larger than life, larger than opinion even,
or common sense, which has somehow been
rendered inappropriate these days, and we see

Bush’s sleeping head transposed over
the nyabinghi drum at the rasta reasoning,
calling forth the apocalypse
one chorus at a time,

If you look closely you can witness the faces of millions
in just one of his pupils, millions more in the other,
waiting without humor to see which eye he’ll wink with
this time.

“W” appears in Madswirl, May 2007

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This is No Freakshow (rewrite)

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This is awful, but not awful enough.
A messy wound you could fit a canyon into
leaking clear juicy drops to the white sands.
You charged us five dollars for this?

I could’ve seen much worse for free
on my parents ultramodern laptop/fax/phone/espresso machine.
I could’ve ventured into the caves under the desert
and emerged with centipedes guaranteed to blow minds.

There are friends on the fringes that have limbs missing
or sometimes extremities in the wrong places
like they were created by a two-year old with a good lego set.
There’s no shortage of freak show on this dusty earth.

They take money shamelessly.
What better to do with the finger sprouting from a left nostril then
commercialize it as it picks the right nostril,
bending around like a bull ring and probing like a drill worm.
How amusing is that?

This is just a nasty wound, kid.
Give me a carving knife, and I’ll show you how it’s done.
No freak show here.

Watch the embers from the lava geyser as it engulfs the birch tree.
Count to one hundred, slowly, clenching your jaw.
Do not scream. There are extraterrestrials afoot.

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Specialists and Archetypes

I’ve never understood how people decide
what it is they want to specialize in.

Dear mid-fifties male gynecologist:
What is it about the vagina that fascinates you so?

Dear young podiatrist:
How about those feet?

This chum bucket is chock full
of divorce lawyers, tongue doctors,
addiction specialists, practitioners
of obscure academic disciplines.

Why are you a professor of
Tantric meditation,
fifteenth century African social structures,
and the female sex drive?

I know why people mow lawns, collect trash,
scrub toilets, even teach middle school.
I’ve been there.
We can only make so many choices in life.

But when our fortunate choice is doctor or lawyer
the world turns suddenly diverse, I guess,
and you can grab at infinite novelty.

I knew a guy once who specialized
not on just the ear itself
(he wasn’t an otologist)
but just the hammer, anvil, and stirrup
(malleus, incus, and stapes).

Why? I asked him once.

He gave me some bullshit
about his subconscious archetype:
The Internal Blacksmith.

Looking back,
there might be something to that.

If you specialize in the testicles,
what is your archetype?

How about me?
Is my archetype my life:
The Unemployed Poet?
The Coffee Drinker?
The Chipped Thinker Statue?

That’s the problem.
We have too many archetypes these days.
If you’re lucky,
you might get to choose a carnival prize.

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