Thursday, December 27, 2018

Will Mayo Finishes Out 2018

Photograph by Mirage Kale, 2013

Above is one of the lesser known Beatles album, but it's always been one of my favorites.  I wonder if it was the one that Will's sister showed to him.

Rock It!
Will Mayo 
"Will you take a look at my records, Will?" my sister said to me some 50-odd years ago. "It's the Beatles. They're really cool."
I took one look at the pictures of the Fab Four on the album cover in her room and said, "They look all alike."
"No," she said. "They don't look at all alike."
I peered a bit closer at the photos there and said, "No. I don't suppose they do." I walked off.
I had no idea how these four boys from Liverpool would rock my world in the coming decades. No idea at all.

So, Too, The Passage Of Time
Will Mayo 
And then it came to pass that the Sixties were coming to an end and the Seventies were due to come upon us and, we, all of us in our family, stood outside and lit our sparklers counted down to the new year.
"Happy new year!" we all shouted...
...and then nothing. We noticed no difference. Not one bit. Finally, disappointed, we extinguished our sparklers and went to bed, seeing no bang for our having stayed up late. It hardly seemed worth the trouble.
But then the years came to pass. There was Watergate and the resignation of Nixon. There was the death of John Lennon, our cherished idol. There was, too, our first kiss, our first lay. And, before we knew it, the century was complete.
That's just the way it goes, you see. One day, one year, one decade, indeed, one century passes before another with hardly anything to mark the difference. But just when you least expect it there's a real bang up time to mark the miles. And you cry out, "More!" "More, please!" only to realize that the time has yet come complete. One cherished life after another.

A Few Passing Words Of The Spirit
Will Mayo 
So a few years ago I went to the funeral of the father of a once dear friend of mine and stayed at the friend's house overnight beforehand where, given free rein to the fridge, I spied this wonderful jar filled with all manner of little fudge cakes. I sampled one and then quickly afterwards sampled another and before I knew it the whole jar was empty. My appetite filled me then with a curious euphoria whereupon the night passed without incident.
In the morning, I, my friend and my friend's wife all drove to the funeral together and, upon entering the church, I had the curious sensation of exiting my body. Throughout the whole service I laid my hand upon my dear friend's arm and that of his wife's while, simultaneously, I seemed to float several feet above the congregation. Although I took little note of the minister's sermon (though I couldn't help but note in passing that the deceased was among one of "the saved") it seemed that the Holy Spirit had entered me like none of my samplings of the world's religions had ever shown me before.
Finally, the deceased father was lowered into the ground and we all returned at once to the house for more food and festivities. Upon checking the refrigerator where I had partaken the night before my friend's wife couldn't help but notice one small missing item and she called out in a loud voice,
"What the hell happened to my hash brownies?!"
The spirit does indeed move in mysterious ways.

Will Mayo 
So one night back in January of 1977 I was stranded in some desert town out in California and some long black limousine pulled up beside me with tinted windows and men all dressed in black suits and the driver's window rolled straightaways down and he spoke to me thus:
"I want you out of here by sunrise."
I had no idea of what wrong I could have done to these men let alone anything to merit getting run out of town. In the end, I only nodded. The long black car passed into the night
I searched in vain all night for a ride. One came along that was headed for New York City but that was not my destination and, so, I turned it down. There were no more offers.
Sunrise came around with a heartache. Two nasty looking desert cops came around along with a truck driver who claimed that he'd seen me driving some stolen car. Once again, I knew nothing about it. Finally, I gave up to the cops my one true name and had them call my father back in Maryland. Time to get back to where I belonged. Time to get back to Frederick.
The miles passed, the desert wind howled and I swore that I could hear the coyote give one last cry. And I was gone.

Dreams Of Mongolia
Will Mayo 
And then last night I dreamed that I was sitting at the dining room table at the old house up the hill from here and all the family was there, alive and well, gathered round to offer me my every pleasure. My father, it seems, was prepared to offer me a journey to anywhere in the world if only I would cease my grumbling and get on with life.
"It must be Mongolia then," I said. "I have a friend there, the dearest friend in all the world, she lives in the coldest desert known to man and she says she knows where the bones of Genghis Khan are buried nearby, a man who conquered all the known world a thousand years ago. Oh, there are some folks in the Himalayas I've simply got to see on the way. They are the greatest."
"Are you sure that you don't want to head south to Mexico?" my father asked. "I know some people there. They are also nice folks."
"No," I said. "It's got to be Mongolia or bust."
So for a week we bundled up, got all our shots and passports and prepared ourselves for a journey halfway around the world. My mother did the packing and then my father and I headed out to the airport, ready to begin our journey to those faraway lands.
But, lo, once we stepped from the outdoors with the bluest sky above us into that airport, the most blinding white light overcame me. It blinded my eyes with their intensity and I closed those eyes and covered them with both arms until finally I fell away back into the deepest, blackest sleep.
When I woke from that sleep I was back in the apartment where I have lived for some years now. All the family was gone away as well as the old family home and I was left with only my room full of books, one black cat and the couch on which I had slept and had those distant dreams. My next trip out would only be to a doctor here in town and would not take place for another week. My Mongolian vistas would remain unrealized. Silently, I rose from my place of rest and began another day.

From The Beatles to Mongolia and beyond, Will is quite prolific, but I am going to stop here.  Hope to bring you more soon!

In the meantime, here is some music for you.

Let's start with Dave Damiani and the Instigators' cover of "All My Loving":

Arthur Philipe and Quintessence Jazz, a Brazilian group, covers "Here, There, and Everywhere":

I'll finish with Trio Gafas' version of "Blackbird":

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Sooner Than I Thought....Shan Spradlin!

It's been a while since I've updated this site.  Hope you've been enjoying Avis D. Matthews' fall poems.  Tonight I'd like to post Shan Spradlin's poems.  You may remember him from last year:
Two of his poems won honorable mentions in my last batch of contests.
Here are some new poems by Shan!

The Top Two Steps 

Today the sun plastered the
Skin like asphalt filling 
Potholes on the corner of 82nd
And Central. By nightfall the sidewalks
Smelled of dive bar burgers 
and happy hour. Two
People walk by holding shadowy hands.
They could have been strangers two
Hours earlier.  I slip across the street before the
Crosswalk  so I can feel the silk spray 
From the concrete fountain chase 
Invisible droplets over my skin. A
Sunday's paper lays undisturbed 
 across a deserted rod-iron  bench. There are 
Still a lot of lights on in the old hotel 
Towers. Twin brothers sit on the top steps
Smoking cigars and drinking vodka from a 
A brown bag. They still remember the night 
I stopped. We all set elbows 
Distance from a bottle of truth and 
Played spades on the front door mat. They told me 
There’s an old tunnel underneath the 
Hotel and before it collapsed and the hotel turned into 
Public housing, President Eisenhower stayed there. Now 
Everybody stays there. 


Her naked shadow stripped 
The moonlight down to fettered silk.
She touched through the darkness 
With a transcendent plea 
Her delicate breasts pushed air
From my pounding lungs. 
Her deep kiss left me stolen 
Her voice  held the mysteries of generations.
Her feet were callous on my shin. Rough
To the bone. Skin moist from sweat glistened 
Tears of children while her 
Tongue tasted of bitter redemption. 
She smelled of hand-me-downs  and sorghum
I ran my fingertips along the scars on her back. 
I kissed the knees bent down in the dirt. 
I tried to wipe away the tear stains , but 
My white cloth couldn’t reach the pores. My scars
Disappeared into my tender skin. I couldn’t speak
The words that spilled from her lips. I wanted 
To tell her story but to do so was 
Cutting out her tongue. 

Photograph by Joey Zanotti, 2017

The Length of a Word

What is the length of a Word?
Is it simply the number of letters 
Placed parallel one to another on  
A scribbled pad . Ruled paper. Painted on
Subway walls. A lover's note tucked in a pocket-
What is the length of a Word? 
Is it measured by the interpretation
Of a kiss. Is it caught up in December’s
Chilling breath. Or the tears that escape the 
Silence when all of life has spoken. Can it be 
Stretched around the lonely embrace of an
Umbrella. Is it as distant as a palm print
On a downtown railway window. 
What is the length of a Word -
Is it the sum of the entire conversation.
 Is the length of the word a secret we hear
In the dark and wait for in the sun. Is it a mixture
Of all we say, hear, and feel. What is the length ?
A word can travel through the heavens, 
Introduce  strangers, ring phones, un-wrinkle  hearts,
 Connect opposite poles. Promote love. A word
Can shake hands. Sign its name. The length 
of a Word Is a measurement - the 
Consciousness of the mind. The
Conviction that squeezes the air
From our bones. It is the Cicadas 
In our ears introducing spring.
What is the length of Eternity-
One unspoken word .

I don't think that "The Two Steps" takes place in Paris, but I thought I'd start off with the late Jerry Gonzalez' version of "Parisian Thoroughfare":

At one point, Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band did a tribute to Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, the group that fuels my grading, especially at crunch time.  Here is a song from that album:


Sunday, November 18, 2018

Avis D. Matthews and the Fall

This summer Avis D. Matthews (whose poetry you may know if you've been following this site) joined the poetry workshop that my husband and I started.  Here is one of her poems from the workshop.  Avis wrote that she "wrote the poem from a fall state of mind."

A Dog Man

Damp and cloudy,
cool and quiet,
the morning shore 
is an invitation 
to the solitude seeker.

A glimpse of the dogs 
down on the beach draws him 
from the warm kitchen 
onto the concrete balcony
suspended in a frame of mist
six floors up.

Hopeful for adventure,
a long-legged pup charges out 
from behind a dune,  
dashes ahead, 
romps, wags, spins, 
his own playmate. 

An older dog, 
bony and not at all 
ready for morning, 
lags behind like a 
half-hearted chaperone.

On the beach this morning
it's a dog's world.
The man on the balcony
retreats to the soft heat
and his guitar.

- Avis D. Matthews
June 30, 2018

Although we are past 9/11 and even what used to be called Remembrance Day, I would like to post another poem by Avis, "Quiet Skies."  Let's not forget those lost on 9/11/01.  The ending is also very timely.

Quiet Skies
by Avis D. Matthews

Were the clouds so quiet 
in the days before there were no planes
gliding through them;
before that morning,
that bright new day,
which, suddenly, 
was both an end 
and the beginning of 
a long sorrow
that commenced 
on bridges, 
roads and highways,
in meetings interrupted
and routines aborted.

An undeletable sorrow
that first pinched 
in the panic
of unanswered phone calls,
anxious pleas:
Where are you?
Call us back.
Call back.
Call back... 

A desperate sorrow, 
remembered as: 
burning trees and 
flying metal,
smothering heat and 
smoking clouds and 
collapsing walls,
blood and cries 
and courage.

glued inside the American scrapbook,
of last hugs,
last blow-kisses,
last grins,
last gulps of coffee.

Until our memories,
like thunder and lightning,
but sometimes like birthday cake,
cause us to remember 
that they lived before they died.

But is remembering enough?

What could honor them
but a nation where children are fed;
where grungy sidewalks  
don't pass for living rooms;
where justice isn't muddied
with cowardice and greed.

We honor them if
we squash cruel authority,
callous leadership,
and heartless despotism;
and if we echo the poetess Gwendolyn Brooks 
and proclaim to those would slap the sun:
It will not always be night. *
* Inspired by Gwendolyn Brooks' poem "Speech to The Young Speech To The Progress-Toward (Among Them Nora And Henry III")

This evening I was playing Charles Fambrough's The Proper Angle Album.  It wasn't quite right for grading papers, but perhaps it is better for reading poetry.

The album started off with "Don Quixote":

YouTube chose Miles Davis' "Autumn Leaves" to follow:

I'll finish with John Coltrane's "Equinox":

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Catching up with Leslie McKay and Julie Naslund, Paying Tribute to Felino A. Soriano

I am always happy to publish Leslie McKay and Julie Naslund's rengay.  I just didn't expect for it to take so long!!  As you may have guessed from the picture above, their first collaboration was inspired by John Coltrane.

like telepathy

which direction ?
begin in the middle
and go both ways  J

still they salute him
no-one could catch trane  L

aural meditation
from the well of the heart
a love supreme    J

a pure state
moment to moment
only one instrument L

beyond the saxophone 
a new cultural landscape  J

like telepathy
a strong rapport
with inner history   L

I'm glad that they sent me a second rengay!  

eloping with sound

Miles in his Porsche
stopped by cops asking
who he stole it from

misunderstood brilliance
translating from his inner ear

blue into green
a leisurely unfolding
everything is one

discordant brew
beautiful cacophony
new directions

eloping with sound

chasing it out
all the way to the edges
again and again

rengay by Leslie and Julie

Recently I received the sad news that jazz poet Felino A. Soriano had died.  Alison Ross is editing an extensive tribute to him, but tonight's entry is an impromptu tribute to him.  I am adding a couple of his poems.  The first poem is the last that I received from him, I believe.
Conversational whisper
                                   --after Ivar Antonsen (b. 1946)

  Where it was we’ve
 more so an adaptation
     of age and what
 age in theory represents
                   within the
   behavior of our current
        manifestations.  Said
     of what we’ve forgotten,
  each mirror, when unobstructed
        by thick, fingering fog will
  reveal what the body bends
 toward:     :frequent spatial
    needs to determine fractions’
      music, asymmetrical, altruistic with
   widened hands of a welcoming

   warmth is what relocates oddities of noon’s winter holdings;
 elongated lines, tired strands of silken silence
     continue oscillating speech though
   when heat becomes apparition
       is the grayed gradation crawl
   -ing to adhere to bone’s piano solo
        to ash

The second is his tribute to Geri Allen, who was also gone too soon.


—after Geri Allen’s Soul Eyes

each gate     wanders, opens          widens,


an interpretation     of a window’s
signature of contouring syllables
shaped by hands of popular
association, —a connected dedication
opens the visual hanker to
align purpose with the prose
of companionship’s configuration,     each
smile of an onlooker holds an embraceable
moment, an emblem stays, hovering
above what portends color to confirm
emotional clarification, and the eyes
will remember each chapter, each
page will ignite imagination’s pageantry,
consecrated contemplation

by Felino A. Soriano

I'll finish with a few songs for you.  Perhaps they'll inspire you to write.

Let's start with Geri Allen's "Soul Eyes":

Although I haven't included any of Felino's poems inspired by Robert Glasper's music, I am including Glasper's "So Beautiful":

I'll finish with Glasper's "The Worst":