Sunday, May 31, 2015

Amber Smithers Returns

This evening I'd like to post my student Amber Smithers'  poem "Angry Black Woman."  I had an interesting time trying to find a visual for this blog post.  I did not want to choose a celebrity.  Neither did I want to embarrass a non-celebrity.  Finally, I found the photograph above, which is actually from the 1960s African movie Black Girl about a Senegalese girl who works for a French family.

Angry Black Woman

   The first time I heard the saying: "Angry Black Woman”
   I was scared, even petrified to be called this.
   The first time a boy called me out of my name,
   He said you are an Angry Black Woman.
   Yes I am angry that I was taken from my homeland.
   Yes I am angry that the only bracelets I received were in the form of chains.
   Yes I am angry that I was used as a remedy for sleepless nights,
   Under the name of warm bellies.
   Yes I am angry that the children I gave life to were ripped out of my womb, and sold.
   Yes I am angry that even though I was set free,
   I still do not know the meaning of freedom.
   Yes I am angry that I have to carry the cross of my sex and skin color.
   Yes I am angry when you tell me I am pretty for a black girl.
   Yes I am angry that you tell me we can date,
   But only when your family isn’t around.
   Yes I am angry that my brother and sisters in the struggle tell me I am not Black Enough, or a sellout.
Yes I am angry that no one will ever love an Angry Black Woman.


I am also including a collage that Amber sent me for her previous poem.

Tonight I am going to post some music by Matana Roberts, an avant-garde saxophonist who performed at the DC Jazz Fest last year.  

I'll conclude with her "Mississippi Moonchile":

Ms. Roberts explains her approach to jazz here:

Below is a picture of her performing.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

New Poems and Flash Fiction by Will Mayo

Summer evenings are good times for stories since you just have more time.  You might be waiting for your apartment to cool down so that you can get to sleep.  You might be waiting for the thunderstorms to start.  You might be traveling, waiting for sleep or the next rest stop.  Wait no longer.  Tonight I will post Will Mayo's poems and flash fiction for you.

After The Weary Trip


Will Mayo

Years ago, I used to walk many a mile.
Down to the corner store
for a bag of groceries.
Over and round about
for a beer or two.
Perhaps to Route One
or the Golden Mile
for a game of cards,
billiards, too.
Then there was always the extra mile
for a lover,
and then some.
I used to walk farther,
much farther too.
Just for the view.
Just for the sight
of that extra horizon,
that place from which wonders reside.
Today I have not walked far at all.
I have rested after a weary trip
and the miles have encompassed me.
But one day I shall walk that extra mile.
And be where wonders reside.

Falling Asleep


Will Mayo

Falling asleep is a little like
entering a revolving door.
You're never quite sure
which door you'll enter.
Where you'll leave.
Or who will come
out the other side.
Will it be the alert You,
full of chipper for the day?
Or will it be a dazed You,
never quite sure
which path you've trod,
or which road
you're really on?
In between,
the constant turning,
an incessant sliding.
A hall of glass
towards some greater desire,
some unknown fear.
the falling.
Towards an unknown door.


The highway is lonesome like a dove taking flight that never knows when to stop. It runs seemingly forever, a double-barreled, striped blue highway through the desert mesquite. As the sands shift across its shining expanse, the coyote on some far off hillock cries again, its long whine into the air sounding more than anything like a call for help from a desolate place.

In the cold light of the sun shining overhead, the road has only one traveler. The man shifts his burden back and forth across his shoulders as his red hair and beard, touched with fringes of gray, cast about in the Western wind from under the scarf and cap he purloined at some Texas town weeks ago.

At this point he does not know what state he’s in. Nor what day or year it is. He knows it’s winter in these lands, as the wind upon his brow would surely attest, and that it must have been a matter of some days and weeks since he last touched upon a settlement or saw a human face. The growth of his hair and beard show the passage of time.

Too, he is a man without a name or the will to own one. His only belongings are tucked into the backpack that eases back and forth with a shudder from the wind that sets him down, brings him forth in a continual sort of hopscotch movement more reminiscent of children and senile old men than of wanderers across the American desert.

His pockets are empty. He long ago gave up his last coin along with the wallet that begat it on a prostitute in a city that lay well afield of these forgotten lands. But that is past. He tries to brush it from the edge of his consciousness the way a dog might scratch a flea that just keeps on biting.

His one treasured possession outside of his Salvation Army clothes is a medallion clutched tightly in his left hand. It is a St. Christopher’s. He holds it so tightly the chain and coin burn into his skin, so determined is he that the wind may not claim the saint for its own. He does not trust his pockets to the endeavor; they are too tattered and full.

Though he does not remember his own name, he well remembers the name of the one woman he slept with. He calls it out to the wind now louder than even the coyote can yelp in its disorientation: “. . . Melissa . . .Melissa . . . “ He calls the name out over and over, recalling golden ivory skin, shapely curves in the dark, and an English accent more bespeaking of aristocracy than of the embrace of flesh for coin.

He recalls — clearly, as if he sees it now though his eyes are blinded from the wind — how he would visit her the first of each month, paying her visits when the government would pay its due. He saw her not just for the flesh — though there was that, too — but mainly because he saw her imperial manner, as she’d lead him up those steps as something to look up to. She’d seemed more upper crust than ever he could aspire to with his backwoods and bayou manner.

Slowly, she’d take him into her rooms, decorated not with bed but with thickly padded rugs and cushions and the smells of candles and incense. There, she’d strip him of his clothes, bathe him with ointment and rose scented water, and make love to him in all the positions forbidden by law and custom. Exhausted, they’d tumble into one another’s arms, lost amid the cushions and the smell of rose and the slowly moving Southern air. Spent until the next caller should appear at her door.

For years he saw her, unfazed by the girls who made passes at him as he’d board the bus or clear the fields for occasional work. Always he saw Ms. Melissa as something more important than all that. More important than young girls waving to him from the back of Jeeps or the women he’d grown up with, falling as they did in and out of their various marriages and affairs. Somehow, he saw Melissa as beyond all that. Something exotic and beautiful and wealthy beyond anything he could imagine.

Finally — he could remember this though he could no longer remember his name — the force of power and beauty was no longer enough to hold her in her place. The priest he’d gone to to confess his love for her had sent her out of town on a parlor charge. And “decency,” for want of a better word, had taken over the town. Ms. Melissa left Newburg on the next available Greyhound.

Now, praying not to God but to the woman he’d paid for with flesh and coin and spirit, he grips the St. Christopher’s tightly and calls out, “Melissa, where the hell are you?”

Over and over, he calls out these words. But only the howl of the wind and the coyote in the now-setting sun answers him.

Finally, angry, he tries to throw his medallion into the cold desert sands. Swings his arm back and, moving with the force of the winter storm, tosses his hand forward with all his might.

The medal doesn’t budge. As if glued in by his earlier grip, it stays as his hand, outstretched arm, and then his whole body goes skidding across the pavement.

Praying now not to the woman he’d loved but to the Lord of All Hosts, he shouts out; “God, God! Forgive me, Lord,” as he slides first to one end of the roadway and then the other, at last coming to rest off the roadway in a prairie dog field.

The little animals scurry in all directions around him, first out and then back in their tunnels, as, battered and bruised, he picks himself up, letting the tears dry on his now-hardened face.

The storm, which had not lasted quite as long as it seemed, now ceases entirely; its winds dissipated in the sounds of sagebrush and coyote. Ahead, the highway leads, its double-barreled yellow and blue pavement glimmering just slightly as the moon begins to rise over the far off horizon. He steps onto the shoulder and moves on.

Solitude’s Passing

A chair, a bench, a wooden table. Silence lays over all. Like clay, before being touched by His hand, the quiet exists. Alone, the man sits, stands, dwells in spaces torn apart. He is a thinker without a thought, a missionary without a cause.

The windows beyond the dust motes, through which the sunshine streams, open onto a garden. A garden full of beauty and sadness and all points in between. There are roses and gardenias set for the spring. And there are benches set apart in semicircle arenas for the passersby if any should choose to come. The man is a gardener. He tends to these.

On the other side of the garden and the apprentice’s shed is a high stone manse where a rich man and his companion live. Not given to the forms of silence and solitude like their gardener, they throw loud, noisy and boisterous parties, in which the revelry of the night often gives way to the destruction of the morning. The gardener dwells not on these things. He thinks only of the garden and his solitude; never of the rich man and his companion who set him apart so many years before.

One day, an elderly woman comes to visit the manse. The gardener thinks little of her. The rich man has had many visitors over the years, after all; some female, mostly male.
Still, from beyond the gardener’s shed, with its worn cot and broken mirror, he can hear the loud sounds penetrating the air -- more raucous in their own way than the parties the man and his companion are known for, though the words now are low, sharper, more sentencing to the ear. Something about a paper, a warrant, a court order; that’s all he can make out.

Then, after interminable hours, the well adorned lady emerges from the house where revelry has often dwelled upon its own destruction and will dwell no more. Silence only is here now, though it is a thunderous silence in its own way, harmful to the garden.

It is broken by the rich woman’s steps upon the cobblestoned paths to the gardener’s shed; her high heels clicking upon the stones, as her fur, jewels, and dress form undulating waves about her still - slender form, her shapely legs.

At last, she arrives at his shed, poised to knock on the door. But he is already there, standing in the doorway, running his fingers through his closely cropped hair, cut by his own hand.

They stand there, facing one another. He, skinny, dressed in worn clothes, his scraggly beard in need of trimming. She, looking exquisite in her designer dress, her fur, and all her jewels.

Finally, she speaks; her chin raised high, her lips pouting slightly.

Come, now, Alfred. Mother’s come to take you home.” She pauses a moment. “Your father’s made quite a mess of things, I see.”

He pauses himself now, looking over his spare room, the rays of the dying sun passing through the dust motes and forming, once more, a miniature cathedral. He looks, too, at the roses and gardenias beyond his home, their neatly trimmed petals wafting in the air. He has no words to express what he has found here.

He lifts slowly his head from his meditation; hears his mother’s voice:

Alfred, come!”


This last story is quite mysterious.

Let's see what I can come up with for music.  

"After the Weary Trip" and "Remembering" puts me in mind of the Flatlanders, a group from Texas.  
Here is a link to "Tonight I Think I'm Gonna Go Downtown": 

"I Think Too Much Of You" is another beautiful song by that group: 

"Rose from the Mountain" is a fine song although it doesn't quite fit:

I'm not sure what would go best with "Solitude's Passing."  Cole Porter can be decadent, so I'll post Artie Shaw's version of "Begin the Beguine":

I'll close with Shaw's "Nightmare":

Monday, May 25, 2015

Poems by Bryn Fortey

This evening I'd like to present British poet Bryn Fortey's poems.  Welcome to The Song Is..., Bryn!


Noise that rat-tat-tats with the staccato precision
of programmed pandemonium

With the audacious pomp of someone able to write
the Concerto To End All Concertos

When Stan the Man plays
the Innovations Orchestra take no prisoners

with style and panache

with surrealist intent

Pure artistry:
playing tonight at Babel's Town Hall

Oh yes  -  Sweet Sweet Cacophony

Above Al McKibbon and soprano saxophonist Lucky Thompson perform at the Three Deuces in 1947.  The woman pictured is Hilda A. Taylor, a former Miss America and professional singer.  Thompson also played with Stan Kenton.


Another night
Another club
Another horn blowing
Recycled phrases
Into lost corners
The stale air itself
Explodes in
Staccato misdemeanors
Of false idolatry
Stratospheric brass
Forcing hot excess
Into mass-produced

Another night
Another club
Another horn
The search goes on...

Bryn Fortey

Mr. Lucky (1991) is one of John Lee Hooker's later albums.


Hypnotic baritone
Droning guitar
Tapping foot
Mighty mighty boogie-man
Hey there: John

From primal blues to hit parade
From plugged in electric to acoustic folk
Hey there: John Lee

Smooth mover
Smart operator
Never out of fashion
Master to all those white boy pretenders

Hey there: John Lee Hooker

Bryn Fortey

Stan Kenton's "Solitaire" is from his Innovations in Modern Music:

I'm also including his "Coop's Solo," but he has much more!

Lucky Thompson and his band play live in Paris here:

His "Invitation" is from the Lucky Strikes album:

I'll finish with some of John Lee Hooker's songs.  

You may recognize his collaboration with Carlos Santana on "The Healer":

Or you may prefer more classic blues:

In any case, enjoy!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Two More By David Pointer

Now that I have entered all my grades for the spring semester, I will be posting more frequently.  Tonight I am featuring two more poems by David Pointer.  These are part of the Mourning and Memory contest.

Smokeless Windjammers

Invisible as a war profiteer, refurbishing
old czar’s extra apartment with wallpaper
                                                      black as
espionage networks forever digging tunnels
retrofuturistically though airmail,       email,

overimbibing on bureaucracy, destabilization
clogging global lens with hallucinatory film

Agelast Syndrome Overtime

Those way over purchased extra-large
                                            foster home
eventually chasing all the kids into
oncoming dash cam collegiality, then
come flexicuffs for the ever rigid

For music, let's listen to parts of Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite:

I'll finish with Nina Simone's "Four Women" and "Ain't Got No/I Got Life."

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A.J. Huffman....I am Saxophone...and The Barbie Formerly Known As....

This evening, as summer comes closer and closer, I'd like to post A.J. Huffman's poems.

I Am Saxophone

wailing my lament across wrinkled white
pages.  Letters replacing notes, both creating
forlorn tales of terror, torment, torture, lust,
living.  Sounds roll on top of one another,
merging, like bodies, to create, force, push
out the demons that scream inside an artist’s
head.  Hollow
                       ing out the anvil of thought,
sending it streaming into the atmosphere,
into human(?) receptors, ears feigning for
the next fix of weeping misery, drowning
themselves, their sorrows, in the residual
resonance of mine.

The woman pictured above is Silvia Superstar of the Killer Barbies, a punk band from Spain.

The Barbie Formerly Known As

Princess Pop Star.  Barbie
always wanted to be a rocker.  All heavy
metal leather studded ear bleeding screams, but
Mattel had “more appropriate” plans
in mind.  Oh, she would sing, but only
dripping-radio tunes written
by brain-dead twelve year olds for brain-dead
fourteen year olds to listen to on repeat
till their heads explode.  Barbie thought
about slitting her wrists, but decided that was a bad
idea.  Not only because she didn’t bleed, but also
because if she got famous enough they would have
to let her write her own music.  So famous she became.
Overnight, literally.  Her first-run castings sold out.
She was the most sought after toy that Christmas.
Mothers were fist fighting over her.  They made her
an animated movie-concert.  Posters, t-shirts,
key chains, the works.  They fabricated her Dream Jet,
private of course.  Versace outbid Mackie
for the rights to design her costumes.  It was the perfect
nightmare.  She could not stand looking at herself
in the mirror.  She threatened to quit.  They showed her
a contract, explained how they owned her, stem to stern.
Eff that noise!  Barbie rebelled.
Shaved her head, refused to sing.  Just stood
on stage for hours listening to the boos.  She would have held
her breath if she could.  It took forever,
but they finally fired her.  She was free to do whatever
she wanted, except use her name.  That was fine with her,
there was precedent.  She found a band
of reject Kens, started playing small
venues, intimate concerts.  She became a more content version
of success under the anonymous flag of a stroke of pink
paint X-ed over with black.  Her new fans thought
she was a genius.

A.J. Huffman has published eleven solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. Her new poetry collection, Another Blood Jet, is now available from Eldritch Press.  She has two more poetry collections forthcoming: A Few Bullets Short of Home, from mgv2>publishing and Degeneration, from Pink Girl Ink.  She is a Multiple Pushcart Prize nominee, and has published over 2100 poems in various national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, and Kritya. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press.

Tonight's music will be quite the mix of musical genres.

As I think about which Sonny Rollins song to post, I wonder what it might have been like to walk on Williamsburg Bridge where he would practice in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  I'll do something a little different and post a clip where Rollins talks about his "bridge sabbatical":

Now we'll listen to some music from The Bridge, starting with the title cut:

Here is his "Without a Song":

This again is something a little different, a much longer video of Rollins live in '65 and '68.  I believe that the Johnny James who posted this video might be the subject of Russell Streur's poem from last summer:

I'll finish with some Killer Barbies:


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Regina A. Walker...Musings

Copyright 2015, Regina A. Walker

I'd like to post poet, photographer, and psychotherapist Regina A. Walker's poem "Musings" tonight as a reminder that The Song Is... and the contest in Mourning and Memory continues.


Sometimes the pain is worth it. 
Sometimes the right thing to do really isn't. 
Sometimes loss is a relief.
Sometimes getting what I want is scary. 
Sometimes fear is a savior.

by Regina Walker

Copyright 2015, Regina A. Walker

My student papers also continue, so I am going to finish with some music for you.

Let's start with Janis Joplin's "Little Girl Blue" from the Tom Jones Show:

Here is her version of "To Love Somebody":

"A Woman Left Lonely" fits in well here:

I'll finish with her "Maybe":

I may post some poems about Bessie Smith soon; perhaps I will post your poem about Janis Joplin later.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

#100 -- Poem by Jeri Thompson

The women and music contest takes a new turn with Jeri Thompson's poem inspired by Sia's "Chandelier."

Chandelier… One Interpretation
                               (35 years later, 
                                            for Sia)

I was the girl
Hanging onto the night
Clawing at the moon and stars
To stop their rotation.

Stoli on the rocks, six nights a week,
Dim Hollywood haunts,
Did nothing to blur the mirror’s
Lazy-eyed gaze back
At everyone’s good-time call.

Party girls don’t get hurt?
I gave myself away so many times
Looking for my treasure within strangers
Drought-fisted fingers and empty upturned hands.

I don’t give up easily (stubborn? probably), yet
All the bottomless cocktails and swinging from chandeliers
Did nothing to quell the rage of solitude
Inside all those vast, star-filled nights starving for touch…
Then next mornings with hangover-eyes, searching for my keys
                                                                                 and panties.

Tomorrow always comes, even if you don’t see the sun.
We all find our way, eventually, mapped out
In the gaze of that lazy-eyed stranger in our own mirror.
Soon, but not soon enough, you will no longer need the night.


This poem previously appeared in Cadence Collective (December, 2014).

And here is Sia's "Chandelier":

This video is quite eerie.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Judith McCombs' "Dragon Song"

This morning I'd like to post the first entry into the women and music contest: Federal Poet Judith McCombs' "Dragon Song."  Above is a Japanese dragon as imagined by Kate Pfeilscheifter.  Below is a European painting of a woman and a dragon.

Dragon Song

There was a dragon loved a lady:
All his kindred thought her shady:
She was peeled instead of scaley
and where was her long green tailey?
            warned him dragons must
                        never trust
                                                a tailless, scaleless lady o.

When you fall asleep beside her
she will let another ride her:
She will pine for human words
and betray you to a sword:
            warned him dragons must
                        never trust
                                                a moody, human lady o.

Did the lady love the dragon?
When she saw his heart was sagging
she grew tired of human bragging
and of heroes' agony:
            and she thought that creatures must
                                                always trust
                                                                        what gentleness God sends us.

She's led him to her silky bed
kissed his scales and held his head:
In his claws she's found no harm
and his fires keep her warm:
            and she thinks that creatures must
                                                ever trust
                                                                        what gentleness God sends us.

And if the morning found them happy
who's to say what's wise or apt?
Love is precious where it's found
rare enough on mortal ground:
            blessings on all lovers
            and all others
                        waking in the morning.                      

Sing of dragons, sing of ladies,
sing of heroes in their bravery,                                                           
as you choose among your savories                                                   
think of us who lack for gravy,
keep us from the thieving poor.
Open purses, don't be greedy,
think of us, we are the needy,
keep us from the thieving poor--
if we starve we sing no more--
May you feed this year and more,
may we sing this year and more,
blessings on your noble, gentle door.

This poem was originally in Green River Review 13:1&2 (1982): 117-18.

Perhaps Billie Holiday would have been happier had a dragon fallen in love with her.

Or for that matter... Sandy Denny

I hope to be publishing other poems that celebrate women and music.  The contest continues!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Riding Spring's Wings ... and other poems by Karen O'Leary

This evening I'd like to post Karen O'Leary's poems, the first of which brings us back to spring.  I met Karen through her journal Whispers, and I'm glad that she has decided to send me some poems for The Song Is...

Ancient Beauty
of buttercups…
timeless sanctuary
for capturing and inspiring

Riding Spring’s Wings

A breath of fragrant
lilacs and a robin’s song
awaken my senses.
I reach out a hand
to explore the velvet
of a red tulip petal.

…a butterfly transports
me back in time…

I taste the pleasure
of childhood’s magic,
consuming spring
without an agenda.

Published--Poems of the World--2013

Magic Dances On

Words whisper
in the misty
forest of ideas.

Future poems flit
like butterflies,
often tumbling
without reason.

These wildflowers
are gladly gathered
by the artist
to map a trail.

Starlight brightens
the journey.

In a serene den
by the fireplace,
her pen flows freely.

An increasing resume
gives the poet courage
to share her song.

Published--The Oak--2013

Karen O’Leary is a writer and editor from West Fargo, ND. She has published poetry, short stories, and articles in a variety of venues including, Frogpond, A Hundred Gourds, Haiku Pix, Sharpening the Green Pencil 2014, Now This: Contemporary Poems of Beginnings, Renewals and Firsts, Creative Inspirations, and Poems of the World. She currently edits an online poetry journal called Whispers,

You may also be interested in reading Karen's response to the recent tragedy in Nepal:

And here are some spring songs for you.  

Herbie Hancock's "Butterfly" is a very lovely song.   He looks so young in this video!

Ahmad Jamal's "Spring is Here" is beautiful as well:

I think that Herbie Mann's jazz flute would work well here, too:

I am trying to find women in jazz and/or swing music to inspire you for the new contest!

Of course, there is Blossom Dearie's "It Might As Well Be Spring":

Benny Goodman and his Orchestra perform "Swing into Spring."  I knew that that title seemed familiar: