I've been celebrating Christmas in bits and pieces. Tonight I'd like to post Donal Mahoney's "Feliz Navidad" -- before it is New Years or Little Christmas or, worse, Candlemas!
Pedro swings a mop all night
on the 30th floor of Castle Towers
just off Michigan Avenue
not far from the foaming Lake.
The floor is his, all his,
to swab and wax till dawn.
The sun comes up and Pedro's
on the subway snoring,
roaring home to a plate
of huevos rancheros,
six eggs swimming
in a lake of salsa verde,
hot tortillas stacked
Pedro writes a poem
the wife who waits
in Nuevo Leon.
He mails the poem
that night, going back
to his bucket and mop.
of three small sons,
in the making.
On Christmas Eve
the boys wait up
in Nuevo Leon
and peek out the window.
Papa's coming home
Pedro arrives at
on a neighbor's donkey,
a giant sombrero.
He has a red serape
over his shoulder,
and he's juggling
sacks of gifts.
When the donkey stops,
the boys dash out and clap
and dance in circles.
in the doorway
Donal Mahoney, a native of Chicago, lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He has had fiction and poetry published in print and online publications in the U.S. and elsewhere. Among them are The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Christian Science Monitor, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Commonweal, The Galway Review (Ireland), The Osprey Journal (Wales), Public Republic (Bulgaria), and The Istanbul Literary Review (Turkey).
I seem to be going backwards, but here is Allyson Lima's moving poem about her mother and jazz. I had intended to publish it during the semester.
She was more absence than presence
Never spoke of her father
Except to say he played piano
I only knew her by the music
Spied on her from behind the door
Pale fingers poised above the ivories
And the black keys—
Hold the low tones then flutter
Down cascading phrases
“The falling leaves drift by my window
The autumn leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sun-burned hands I used to hold”
She plays Nat King Cole but it’s her song too
“Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall”
Who is that guy? I ask when she hangs a portrait
5x7 black and white in the hallway.
Dapper bow-tied entertainer--piano player
His gaze so seductive it could stop you cold
Even a kid knows this guy’s trouble
Her music was no sing along,
No Mitch, no Bing, no bedtime lullaby
Hers were the jazz riffs
Cubist tone fragments
Music undone broken notes smoky
Drifts shifting in air like dark dreams
Reshaped caught on vinyl
Records of survived betrayals
Broken beats of lives revived
In low-lit smoky rooms
Blackhawk, Blue Note, urban clubs
And her glassed-in living room.
LPs in cool jackets leaned against
The blond wood stereo like Sinatra
On the night street album cover
Borsalino angled over baby blues in the boozy
Lamplight and cigarette smoke
In the wee small hours—such well crafted drama
He made grown women cry
Music always playing when I came home
From school always playing in her afternoon
Errol Garner Duke Ellington Oscar Peterson
Louis Armstrong trumpets and Ella Fitzgerald scats
in her unearthly voice how high the moon
Ella Fitzgerald voice of the century
My mother so admired her she once made my father
Go backstage at the Blackhawk just to pay respects.
Ella-- voice for all time couldn’t stay in the same
San Francisco hotel where she sang
Then left out the back door to walk
A dark street to dream elsewhere.
Armstrong and Fitzgerald sit together on
The album cover posed on folding chairs like
Old married folks at the grange hall
His white socks rolled down bebop-style
She wears a cotton print housedress
(Ella must have hated that cover—
She sang in gowns and pearls in Paris)
MJQ’s suit-and-tie jazz John Lewis hits highbrow notes
Ray Brown plunks the double bass makes it speak like
No one ever heard Miles Davis Coleman Hawkins Art
Tatum, Charlie Parker Les Brown and Wes Montgomery Les Paul
Milt Jackson jivin’ the vibes— those round sounds held her
Django Rheinhart Stefan Grappeli
Are you kiddin’ me?
You know she felt good then
Even when the pops came along
Stan Getz’s strange meadow lark and
Astrid Gilberto her gorgeous Portuguese
Makes a beachcomber out of anyone
Stuck in suburbia
Cal Tjader’s red hot vinyl beats
Antonio Carlos Jobim’s guitar with
Brazilian accent--Latin’s catching on
Las Vegas nightclubs--Louis Prima Keely Smith
Ahmad Jamal’s Cry Young and
Not one single musical –no post-war feel-good South Pacific
No Oklahoma where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain
To blow away the 1950’s suburban housewife blues
But Ray Charles--Ruby and Georgia on My Mind to break your heart
Dad comes home whiskey-breathed
Swings her ‘round the kitchen keepin’ the beat
One hand stuck down the back of
Her French blue stretch pants
No, Jack, No! she protests eyes sparkling
Singing along with Ray hit the road Jack
We didn’t know he would really go.
Never guessed they would take new lovers.
I know because I found the love letter
in her lingerie drawer—musician too
Distant mystery-mother of four
My younger sisters don’t remember her
Ask me what she was like
Died in the hospital age 42
After a routine operation
Some say she died of suicide.
I say it was a slow dance
In the wrong generation
For a woman like her
Who lived in music and
couldn’t get enough of it.
Bend the pretend wires of time
Do what you meant to do
What you’re meant to do
Is there a costume for that?
whine a little
at the sun
Give it a little airtime
before you leave
Take my hand, take two
I’ll go with you in the dark
Are you still waiting
For the door to open
In your silly costume?
Sweets and bellyaches
You’ll get both
What do you seek
In the moonlight?
Don’t forget to ask
Don’t forget to knock
There are no costumes
Next time around.
By Allyson Lima October 31, 2015
Allyson has given me so many ideas for the music, but let's keep a Christmas theme. Unlike many of you, I feel deprived of holiday music.
Let's start with Nat King Cole's "Christmas Song":
"O Come All Ye Faithful" is one of my favorite carols:
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis performs "We Three Kings":
Here is their "White Christmas": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6mvjnhwrEs
Oscar Peterson recorded a Christmas album in 1995, and here is his version of "Silent Night":
The album also includes "The Christmas Waltz":
Allyson just sent me a photo of Lincoln Center at night!
Allyson just sent me a photo of Lincoln Center at night!