Tuesday, April 5, 2016

RIP, Bohemian Caverns

While we're in between fall/winter and spring/summer, I thought I'd post the news that DC's Bohemian Caverns is no more.  My husband and I have fond memories of seeing artists like Ron Carter, Gary Bartz, Barry Harris, and Gerald Clayton there.  It's a shame that this venue is no more.

I thought I'd post my poem set in Bohemian Caverns.  Enjoy!  The poem originally appeared in Felino A. Soriano's Of/with.

Summer Solstice on U Street

Let’s pretend that it’s midnight
as saxophonist Gary Bartz
steps onto the stage.
The room darkens;
candles on the table flicker.
Shadows hide the thickset men at the wall.
The ceiling lowers;
tiny lights strung above stand in for stars.
Imagine moonlight rippling on salt water.
The scent of mango dusted with
chili powder and cinnamon
trickles in with the piano and drums.
We taste fruits we don’t know the names of.

Tap your toes, for sure,
or sway, following the pianist’s lead,
but when the horn starts in again,
carry yourself a little straighter.
Cameras flash.  Wedged in,
we are all caught in the glare. 

All too soon imagine
the empty streets above.
Playing the last song, Bartz retreats
into the early morning’s shadows,
the color of his long-tailed jacket,
and climbs the back stairs
to his refuge above the club.

When we leave by the front stairs,
it’s still daylight on U Street.
We can no longer pretend.

Here is another jazz poem.  This one appeared in A.J. Huffman and April Salzano's Pyrokynection.  

After The Summer of Young Men in a Hurry

The young men in a hurry played
all that summer in Manhattan,
the once black and white city
ripened beyond lavender into red.

The piano sounded
like storm clouds on the horizon
in a neighborhood
with only fans and open windows.

The high-hat shivered
like the taste of ice chips
about to melt.
The saxophone slipped 

into the tightly-packed room
and across rough brick walls
like the last breeze
before September.

Listening to them, you wonder
how they would have sounded
in winter when clouds mean warmth
and storms spawn the steady fall of snow.

Let's listen to some music, too.

We'll start with the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra's version of "Alone Together": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEuqKiIR830

Here the Ralph Peterson Sextet plays at Bohemian Caverns:

Nicholas Payton and XXX are here:

I'll finish with Ben Williams' version of "Toy Soldiers":


  1. Thanks so much, John :) Hope your spring is starting off well!

  2. Entrancing music, I wish I knew about this place earlier.