Thursday, October 20, 2016

Welcome to Ndaba Sibanda

Photograph by Cpl. Jad Sleiman, US Marine Corps

This evening I would like to post some prose and poetry by Ndaba Sibanda, a writer from Zimbabwe who is now based in Saudi Arabia.  Welcome!  Mr. Sibanda has something for everyone.

Friendly Wars

Ever since his appointment to the lofty position of defense minister, he seemed to be gripped by some phobia. Some residents claimed the irrational fear stemmed from the possibility that he did not know what he was expected to do. Others thought that he was a lucky coward who found himself having to oversee a strategic security portfolio which he did not deserve or understand.

Mr. Gubuzela `s political history was not well-known in the country except for the controversial claims he made each time he had an opportunity about his heroic past during the liberation war.  Not only were the citizens unconvinced about his war liberation credentials , they were also skeptical of his ability to turn around the national army into a truly professional , patriotic and non-partisan force that could be the envy of  the region, if not the continent . It had committed untold atrocities in the country and beyond national boundaries.

He was once labelled a “Wild Useless Claimant” by a no-nonsense newspaper when he claimed that all the country`s political and economic woes were visited upon the nation by the “stubborn” opposition leaders, the ruling party`s detractors and their Western allies.  What was a known fact was that he was a shameless bootlicker who heaped praises upon the ruining leadership with sickening frequency and subservience.   It was no secret  that was a Grade Two primary school dropout who had endeared himself to the leadership by worshipping them at every rally or meeting , and terrorizing any soul who challenged the big wig`s bigotry and destructive policies at every conceivable corner.

Then one day one foreign journalist decided to ask him one general question. “Sir, please shed light on what you are doing or intend doing as minister of defense to keep soldiers fit?”
He was clad in his civilian clothes in the form of dazzling yellow socks, white shoes, a red pair of baggy trousers, a green T-shirt, and a dark and blue, deeply cupped hat that seemed to bury his head and obstruct his view of the world. With exaggerated steadiness, he cleared his throat and said, “Soon l will start some friendly wars with neighboring countries”.

Malleable Prospect

let us reminisce
and romance

let us rekindle
those fires

of yesteryear
of heart and heat

let us boldly board
a recollection bus

of positive events
of past actions

let us live ‘n love
in the present

no matter
how different

because it is all
we can correct

and curve
into our future

Intoxicating Songs and Sights

I just like to stray into the forest each time l visit the countryside
How I like to immerse myself into its thickness and feel the
awesomeness of Mother Nature surge into my veins

The proximity to a life undiluted intoxicates my spirits
I heed the birds' advice as they sing their happy
harmonies in their charming and chirping ways

Their serenading expertly makes love to my eardrums
I can't tell you how the creepy reptiles wow me
to no end as they wiggle and jiggle in their
amazing fashion to their hazy habitats

I marvel at the beauty of vegetation
and condemn deforestation
in the strongest possible

Ndaba Sibanda  has also contributed to the following literary projects: It`s TimeFree Fall and Windows In The SkyNdaba’s  poems, essays and short stories have been featured in many and various  journals and magazines like: The Piker Press,  Bricolage, The Dying Goose, Lost Coast Review, Magazine ,Whispering Prairie Press, Saraba Magazine,, Jungle Jim, Outside In Literary & Travel Magazine ,The Metric, Unlikely Stories, Santa Fe Writers Project - SFWP Journal, Elohi Gadugi  Journal, The Subterranean Quarterly, Miracle , Red Bird Chapbooks ,The Joker,  Florida Flash, Fjords Review, storySouth, Annapurna Magazine, Festival Of Language, quiet Shorts, The African Street Writer, Poetry, Books Live , Whispers and  Poetrysoup .
Sibanda received a Starry Night ART School scholarship in 2015.

I'm surprised that it's taken me this long to post some music by Tommy Flanagan this season, but here it is.

Flanagan also appeared on Sonny Rollins' Saxophone Colossus.  Let's listen to "St. Thomas."

I know I've posted a number of different versions of "Caravan," but here is Flanagan's:

I'll finish with his "Autumn Leaves," so fitting now:

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Welcome to Nicole Surginer and Carl Scharwath

copyright -- Carl Scharwath

One of the most rewarding things about "curating" this blog-zine is bringing poetry together with visual images and/or music.  Tonight I would like to post the collaboration of poet Nicole Surginer and photographer Carl Scharwath (who is a poet as well).  Carl's photograph above is paired with Nicole's poem "Bound" below.


Endlessly I roamed lands 
foreign to my tattered feet
to flee the resonance of you
Plaguing the song of my sky
Yet the maps of stars led
me relentlessly back to this
place where now only shells
of home lie in desolate grey
I am drawn to linger evermore 
Where the story of our love
gleams from effulgent cloud
Memories warming light seeps
through the branches of trees 
rooted of our immortal adoration 
The featherings of your energy
invade my wavelengths feeding my
starving soul as I breathe the taste
of your heat into my every cell
Though I had vanquished all thought
of you urgently away into the 
crevices of my heart to silence the
lure of longings echoing call
Still I heard the weeping of desire
Leeching through my vessels 
For I am bound to you as the soil to
this very earth and that which is

sealed of soul shall not be severed 

Copyright -- Carl Scharwath
Model -- Jennifer Fernald


I run my hands across the stone
that I may feel the essence of you
pulsing warmth through my veins
My ears burn with the longing
for your voice yet I hear my
truths in the absence of words.
They lie amongst the remnants of
my brokenness on faltering ground
The portrait of us painted in the
ink of empty promise shattered
and cast into desecrated earth
In this place that is grey and barren
the dampness of cold strains my breath
The ravishings of loneliness clutch my
pallid face within her crushing fingers
I strain to see beyond the fragmented
shadow of you clinging to the remnants
of brick that once bonded our love
Where I once dreamed and lived in you
I stood breathless as my foundation
crumbled and I was laid bare and alone
Cast away as rubble to smolder in ash
as my heart crumpled within my chest

Nicole Surginer, is a poet from the small town of Bastrop,Texas. She is inspired to write by her love for nature's enchantment, a fascination with the power of raw, intense emotion and a desire to create beauty with words. She has been published in Tuck Magazine, Anti-Heroin Chic, Indiana Voice Journal, Tuck Magazine, In Between Hangovers, Your One Phone Call, Sick Lit Magazine with pending publications in the Contemporary Poet's group anthology "Dandelion in a vase of roses."

Carl Scharwath, has appeared globally with 80+ magazines selecting his poetry, short stories, essays or art photography. He won the National Poetry Contest award for Writers One Flight Up. His first poetry book is 'Journey To Become Forgotten' (Kind of a Hurricane Press). Carl is a dedicated runner ("that's where his art ideas spring from.”)

I'm looking for some collaborations.  Of course, all music (except for solo performances) is a collaboration.  I'll start by returning to Ran Blake and Jeanne Lee.  This time I'm posting their version of "Ticket to Ride":  "Ticket to Ride" is, of course, a song by Lennon and McCartney.

Later she sang with Mal Waldron:

"Quiet Temple" is listed as a collaboration between Mal Waldron and Barney Wilen:

Here is Jeanne Lee and Mal Waldron's version of "Goodbye Porkpie Hat," a collaboration between Charles Mingus and Joni Mitchell:

Jeanne Lee and Ran Blake are jazz musicians born in the 1930s, by the way.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Will Mayo Starts off Fall/Winter 2016/7 at The Song Is...

Let's start off the fall/winter poems and flash fiction with some work from Will Mayo.

Long Tail Of The Lynx


Will Mayo

Almost without sound, he moves through tall grass and tangled shrub, past the mossy stone and the cobblestone walks onto the yards of the suburban oases. Mice and other small animals scatter before his path for he is a wild creature not reckoned for the gentle touch. He hunts his prey and then dines alone, not being known to share his company among the brethren of the night. He is without peer in the kingdom of hunger, or so he thinks to himself, as even animals of the flesh are known to entertain a passing thought in the silences between death and departure.

Yet when he sees the huddled figure amongst the garbage cans he bristles not a single hair and bows his head in honor. For though his claws are long and his teeth are sharp he knows a kindred soul when he sees one. He purrs deep in his throat and rubs gently against the stranger as a man might shake hands with a friend after the journey complete. Together, they walk down alleyway and shadowed street, alone in the long neon night, two fellow wanderers of the dark, caught up momentarily in some passing dream. Soon they will part ways, each going his separate path, but for now they share a loneliness that only the wild things of this world can know. The footsteps echo through the city like so much noise and then fade away.

    Flickering Moments


Will Mayo
    There is some debate as to whether time is in motion or merely appears to be so like a series of photographs run quickly through a projector to make a movie. But, to me, it all comes down to a series of moments, an old man laughing, the smile on a young girl's face, fireflies flickering in the glass on a hot summer's night...



    Will Mayo

    Once I thought of time as being an endless journey, a road from place to place. Then I saw it as a series of moments, of photographs even, run through a projector beaming its light onto a screen of nonbeing. But now at last I see clearly. It is one photograph, not several, and we are all there, all of whom we call our pasts, our presents, our futures. Together. Only there's the frame, you see. It's terribly broken beyond repair. Yet we pretend and keep on pretending. Keep on living.

    Worlds Without End. Amen.”


    Will Mayo

    God, it is said, created the world in six days,
    rested on the seventh.
    His world in turn was created in nine.
    And before that in twos and threes
    and endless combinations thereof.
    As far as myself, here I sit,
    in a small spare room
    writing a few simple words.
    Who knows what worlds I will create?
    Novels, poems, or perhaps
    the flesh of an old forgotten word?
    My pen scribbles still.

      Matters Of Faith


    Will Mayo
      Yet one day I was being admitted to the hospital for one of my many minor afflictions when the nurse asked me if I had any religious preferences.
      "Why, yes," I replied. "Druid. I'm a druid. Just that it's getting harder and harder to find a virgin for one of those sacrifices, virgins being few and far between these days, you know?"
      She too looked at me one long minute then walked away.

        Photograph by Pensiero Laterale -- 2006



Will Mayo

I asked her to take off her clothes. She took off mine instead. I asked her to make love to me. Helpless, I watched her make love to the night.

When the thunder rolled in I knew that things had just begun. That was the night all the lights went out and the power came on inside our hearts. The current was alive with lightning and we simply wondered at it all.

Some of these pieces are more summer pieces than fall...especially mid-fall, but perhaps we will have some more warm weather.  I'll try to bring the fall in with some music.
Here is Joshua Redman and Pat Metheny's version of Ornette Coleman's "Turnaround":
        I'm not sure if I've posted Charlie Haden's "Blues for Pat" yet:
        In this video of "As Wichita Falls, So Falls Wichita Falls," we have a preview of winter:
        Here is the Pat Metheny Group's "To the End of the World":
        Even though that was the end of the world, I'll finish with "The Truth Will Always Be":

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Fall/Winter Contests for The Song Is....

I am far from knowing who has won the spring/summer contests, but it's time to post the fall/winter contests for 2016.

All poems and flash fiction submitted between September 1 and January 30 will be eligible for Thelma's Prize.  Poems and flash fiction from poets based in the Washington, DC area (including Baltimore and Frederick) are eligible for the local prize.  Submitted artwork is eligible for Callie's Prize.

Once again we have two contests.

The first is for poems and flash fiction inspired by the work of jazz and other musicians born in the 1930s.  The jazz musicians include Sonny Rollins, Nina Simone, Ron Carter, Charlie Haden, Clifford Brown, Abbey Lincoln, Wayne Shorter, Albert Ayler, McCoy Tyner, Hugh Masekela, Butch Warren, Hubert Laws, and Don Alias.  You may certainly write work inspired by musicians born in other decades, but they will be eligible for Thelma's Prize, not this contest.

The second is for poems and flash fiction inspired by living without a car or even a driver's license.  These poems can be set in New York City or Europe, but they can also be set in more surprising places.  They can also be set in the past when you did not drive.

Please send your poems to .  I would like up to five poems or five flash fiction at once.  I encourage you to try the contests.  You need not write about the life of the musician, but you may just listen to his or her music--and write!

I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

Here is some music for you.

Let's begin with Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas":
Winter is the time to go south, after all.

You can find both Ornette Coleman and Charlie Haden on "Peace":

Clifford Brown was gone too soon:

I have to include (young) Ron Carter here:

Here is Albert Ayler's "Ghosts":

I have to include McCoy Tyner as well:

Butch Warren spent the last years of his life in DC:

I'll finish with Don Alias:

Friday, October 7, 2016

Welcome to Bola Ade!

Summer has long been over weather-wise and on the calendar.  In fact, today, I was thinking about taking some of my fall/winter clothes out from the shed.  Today I am concluding the spring/summer season at The Song Is... with Bola Ade's poems.  Bola is a former student of my friend Avis D. Matthews.  Avis sent me a selection of Bola's poems, noting how powerful they are.  I agree!  I also think that they are a fine follow-up to my former student Alex Conrad's poems.

The Masters Equal

I love this new age of outrage.
Children adults
light to dark skin
Black Women, men, and children
Rushin the streets, signs in hand.
Armed with knowledge.
Fighting for freedom In this 21st century Selma.

Mr. Officer, President, Governor do you see them?
Us, we the people.
Our Natural sisters
Loc’d brothers and fathers
Will you please free them?
You pelt us with insults and bullets.
Hang us by our white collars
Because Jim Crow didn’t stop us
Slavery didn’t stop us
Ferguson didn’t stop us

When did officers of the law become oppressors of the colored?
When did we reach a time
when an 18 year old black boy is
more likely to be cut down by 8 bullets
Than to be elevated with 8 scholarships

Why are black boys and girls being told to
perm, cut, & tame their hair
To de-culture and deaden anything that
Corporate America deems “unsophisticated” and “urban.”

When did our melanin become a generational albatross
Why do black parents have to prepare their children
For being colored in this world.
For the cross that they must bare
The racism that they must fare
The glass ceiling above their heads.
The closed doors.
The segregated spaces they dare not venture to.

The ancestors of Black Americans were once shackled to boats
Raped, beaten, set ablaze and hung from trees.

The ancestors of Africans were “set free” in to the poverty and corruption
Left behind in the wake of colonization

So yes.

I am in love with this new age of outrage
Where mental shackles are being broken
So our sons can do more than line the streets with their dead bodies,
& our daughters can be more than vessels for objectification

& If war must be wrought in this 21st century Selma
So freedom may truly reign in this land of the perpetually oppressed

* place right hand to chest*

“Then we the negroes do solemnly swear
To decimate every racially imposed barrier fashioned against us.
So that the principles of real liberty, and real justice for all
shall truly come to be.”


To Adult

This is the real world I fought so hard to see.
I used to be a sheltered 13year old wishing my parents would just leave
Get off my back, get out of my face, get out of my space.
I would yank, pull, shove, and try to fight my way in to
this place…this magical place…
filled with freedom, sleepless nights, Adult things.
The idea of being grown used to swirl around my mind like some
perpetually unattainable fantasy.
I used to write superficial poetry about these imaginary people
that didn’t understand me and who only wanted to clip my wings.
Till one day I stood perched. Every muscle in my body clenched.
I no longer had to want to grow. Life was now shoving me
head over heels off the steep cliff of childhood.
In to a world filled with thinking about  a life career, dreaming of changing the world
dotted t’s and I’s, drinking not for fun but to forget
To forget the $20,000 student loans, and the fact that mommy and daddy
just got a divorce. & I found out love isn’t all roses and daises
& people that look like me get shot in the streets
and tuitions prices hiked up so we’re all rioting
& yet everyones so stoked you’re in college
But you have no idea what you want to be.
who you’re going to be.
How you’re going to get there
 So you light up the THC.
Fill your cells with ecstasy.
Do everything to forget the reality
The reality of the fact that everything you have is everything you wished for
That your fantasies didn’t factor in the reality of reality
when you desperately wanted to adult.   

La Femme

To be an enlightened woman is to remain perpetually amused.
It is to live with a perpetual smirk plastered across your face.
To act as if you know not, when you know all.
To laugh inwardly at how uncomfortable they are with your strength
To grace through crowds unscathed, unmoved, unwavering. Stoic.
An enlightened woman is the closest man could ever get to godliness
Not to worshipping a god. But, to being one.
Being an enlightened woman means
Possessing the ability to carry and bring forth life.
The ability to carry the world in the palm of your hands
Being an enlightened woman is to be tempered by experience. —
Experiences steeped in pains only one of your high caliber could ever endure.
Being an enlightened woman means exuding a rare concoction of stoic positivity, brilliance, and beauty. 

Hotep sh*t
Queen this Queen that. I struggle with the surfaceness of this Queen phase. The pretentiousness of it. The lie. The look in the mirror & tell yourself your ancestors all wore heavy eyeliner, carried gold and diamond encrusted crowns on their heads, & sprawled hieroglyphics on walls. When truth be told many of our ancestors were peasants. They were the ones upon whose backs the great pyramids where forged. Stoic statues were etched. Not in their image..but by their hands...Everyone is not royalty. If we lived in a world where everyone had a castle. Who would live in the regular homes across the ocean. Who would be regular. Everyone does not have an ancestor from Cairo. Some people came from the slums of Sierra Leone...the boys squatters of Nigeria. This Queen and King phase that I notice a lot of blacks going almost like a parody a simplistic replica of African culture..In my country I am a princess. My father is a would be King. But this neither adds nor detracts from me. My queendom is the empire I seek to build. Not the one I presume my great grand father had.

My Scarlet A
Like the waves crashing in to the rocks by the sea shore
We have fought.
 Time and Time again

Like a perpetually revolving door:
I have been both the prisoner and the warden
I have caged and buried you
Only to watch you seep through the cracks
I have laced noose around your neck
And watched life leave your eyes

Only for you to rise again
This time bigger
and stronger
more enraged
More erratic
More menacing
More terrifying
Than ever before.
I have cowered before you.
I have 
myself to you

Time and Time again.
Like a perpetually revolving door:

I have waged the grandest civil wars
I have orchestrated the greatest coup’s
I have drafted the most amicable of separations
I have pleaded for my freedom
and offered you the most grandiose reparations

I’ve asked for nothing but peace
Yet you demand war

So this time:
I will not try to plead you away,
instead I will listen and honor you
I will not take up arms against you
Instead I will be still.

….I will be still.


These days I feel the ache in my knees,
The sweet agony of release.
This caricature can not delineate my soul any longer
And my back dare not carry this burden any further.

So I write.

Rip and burn away the history

The memories.
The ones I’m forced to regurgitate.
The ones I feel boiling in the pits of my belly
The ones that spew forth
Words come tumbling from my mouth
Coated in the devils elixir
Acid burns demanding my silence
As the truth strums at the back of my throat

So I write.

Trying to undo history,
Create future.
Remake present.
Be God.

…And honestly I knew.

I knew the moment our lips locked.
There was no spark, no flicker.
I was dry in all the wrong places
The tectonic plates didn’t shift or shudder
There were no eruptions, or cataclysmic implosions.

I didn’t feel the irrepressible urge to inhale her
like her lungs held the last bit of oxygen on the planet.

My hands didn’t wander to places they didn’t belong.
I didn’t wonder what she tasted like
or felt like.
She was resting potential, with no catalyst..
She was a warm body
& I felt…..

I'll finish with some music. I want to find something appropriate.

 Here is Marquis Hill's "The Way We Play/Minority":  He is a young trumpeter, but this song is more than just notes.

This is his "Fly Little Bird Fly":

Here he is with his Blacktet:

His "If We Must Die" is inspired by the poetry of Claude McKay: