Saturday, June 29, 2019

Sheikha A. Returns

Tonight I'd like to welcome Sheikha A. back to The Song Is...  This first poem fits perfectly with the evening humidity.  Perhaps I ought to turn the lights off so that I can see the moon!


It’s hard to resist a provocation
dressed in your favourite colour;

when summers become a case
of scant apparels,

and there is never enough breeze
in the wind’s reserves to swathe

the night moon’s forehead
with a cool dampness;

I cover my body with white
thoughts from black books,

learning the speech of the tarrying
seas with its rightful pauses.

There are cliffs facing my door
sending in guests that will incubate
on cold walls;

there are trees facing my windows
bearing nests greater in number
for its branches can carry;

there are youthful evenings
that visit every moonrise
bringing promises to settle
in the pores of my garments;

and there is memory of life –

the musical shades
of your footsteps arriving –


Life was when a baby was born
and looked up to the sky

at his home; cried the tears of a stone
yet unwritten; fell into moment’s

silence to remember the stars
he saw on the way down,

and became aware of his eyes
that had now closed to the esoteric

to have to open them later to speak
the language of aesthetics. His mind

would not be unknown to secrets
of origins, if moulded by a knower

of truths; and if he were to be
raised by a believer of fantasy,

he would learn to write on water
in a life that is about saving none

of its parchments. He would grow
fast in body, ageing faster in sight.


Beyond where the sky rests,
I imagine a city at night,
it is large in size of land
but scantly populated,
there stands a pale walled
fort, wide and high
to house detached spirits
whose bodies have left
behind, their foreheads
wearing a dust not of earth;

aglow faces with contentment
treading no more cautiously
but freely, unhooked,
unshackled to preachments
previously hefting minds;

stirring fathomers
un-incarcerate of laws,
confident of their walk
into beckoning shadows;

they are no more unaware,
secrets of the sun -  its fire,
of the moon - its light,
every element
Of course, I am going to begin with Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes":

Fred Hersch's version of "Heartsong" follows:

I don't think I've posted much by Bill Evans, so here is his "Like Someone in Love":


Monday, June 24, 2019

Douglas Malan, Jazz, and Trains

Photo by DVS

Tonight Douglas Malan brings us back to the theme of music, specifically jazz.  

I intended to be way up there,
Vermont, perhaps,
playing jazz
into the blue
predawn hours
sipping something strong. 
I intended to be there,
wrapped in meditative comfort
surrounded by walls of circles
possessing hot magic
in vinyl grooves and pockets.
I intended to be there,
the tick-tock of the wooden clock
marked the rhythmic electric flow
and ancient pines caked with snow
welcomed another midnight dusting
of slow, acoustic grace. 
I intended to be there,
watching from the window
speaking only when necessary
in low, liquid tones
to no one, or everybody
all of them unseen
from my den. 
I intended to be there,
but knew the velvet night
never lasts
and the sharp light changes me
agitates, enervates, misappropriates
pulls me out as I give in. 
I intended to be there,
but never went. 
Originally published in Jerry Jazz Musician.

Forged and Cast
I sit in the darkness,
eyes closed, but not asleep, 
listening for distant sound. 
Quick arrival, low hum leading 
to a mechanized rumble
and iron clacking drumbeat. 
Then, gone. 
Return to the night 
of crickets
and wisps through leaves. 
The faceless among them
hurtle into the mystery 
with industrial rhythm
powerless, hopeful.


I’ve been there. 
Boarded the City of New Orleans, 
northbound train #59,
Christmas season,
countryside lit up with joy and hope.
The potbelly stove and grandfather clock 
saw me off around midnight 
from Newbern, north of Memphis. 
Journey on. 


Low lights, scattered sleep
DuQuoin, Illinois 
God, don’t I know you well. 
Mom always held my hand tightly across Main Street, 
until she didn’t need to anymore. 
Got sick of this place, vowed never to return.
But it can’t leave me, and I love it more 
with time and distance. 


Black canvas, blur of light
drunk on sleeplessness
16 hours without speaking, 
I liked it that way.
Chicago, Omaha, Denver
retracing boyish steps, 
as a man. 
Breathless in Vail’s blue-haze snow
another clumsy attempt
because I didn’t belong. 
I was a connection 
humble farmers of dusty overalls
and jet setters of champagne baths
who will never meet. 
Every wailing train
makes me daydream.


Of course, I am going to start with "Moonlight in Vermont," but this is a 1952 version with Johnny Smith on guitar and Stan Getz on tenor sax:

Here is Ahmad Jamal's version from 1958:

Now you have jazz in Vermont.  The Brian McCarthy Quartet plays "The Feeling of Jazz" at the Vermont Public Radio's studio:

I'll finish up with Chuchito Valdes playing at the Vermont Jazz Center:


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Poems by Ryan Quinn Flanagan

Tonight I'd like to post some poems by Ryan Quinn Flanagan.    Enjoy!  I certainly am.

Poem for a Man Who Thinks of the Children 

The crossing guard is there so  
children can cross the river Styx 
like the rest of us.

One side to the other.
Pennies over the eyes like government spending.
This man who cannot quite bring himself 
to be retired.

Two wives departed.
One through her lawyers, the second by death.
A long white beard with food in it.

And it is just a passing moment, but I see it 
sure as quarried rock. 

Any man who hates himself 
will never find the love of another.
He will curse the moon and replace the sun 
with a sky that paints ancient deserts
over electric flip phone hearts.

Belief is Better than 

The monk 
in orange robes
went down 
to the river.

Getting drunk
on wine
and throwing 
his poems 
upon the rocks.

If they are meant 
to find meaning 
they will find it 
without me,
the monk 
in orange robes

Before passing out 
under a banyan tree 
that offered little shelter 
from the 

One Giant Leap

There was a rooftop party 
the same day 
the jumper showed up 
prepared to take 
the plunge.
And he felt obliged 
to stay 
and have a few 

Before excusing himself 
to go find 
another building.

Man Walking Three Ferrets 

I guess they’re not quite clogs, but his gait is struggling
right out of the block.

That unnatural limp of back pain 
and hidden opioid addiction.

Do not foist your various machinations upon the day, 
I must remember this, like scouting out the
hands of a clock for time.

What are intrigues if not an eye to confetti?

Certainly not this man walking three ferrets.
Three separate leads entwined into a single mess.
Blood pressure cuffs converted into black Velcro
shirts that fasten at the bottoms.

Three of them.
And many tiny wool booties of animal hosiery 
so feet forget the cold.

The rain is for wet and introspection.
With all these views, I have only seen myself.

It Could Be Worse

How the hell are we supposed to make ends meet?
she screamed from the kitchen
what about food?
what about rent?
what about...

It could be worse,
I said.

And it could be better,
she countered.

it could be better,
I said.
But we both knew it would 
be worse.

Soaker Tub

Out west 
we had a soaker tub
and nothing else.

No furniture
except a single rod iron chair 
in the kitchen.

Then we got a used bed 
and a dresser from the St. Vincent de Paul
and a table from the transvestite 
next door.

And we took turns with the soaker tub.
It was all we had and we enjoyed it.
Living like kings with warm cloths over our heads.

And each day 
we were back down at the employment office
looking for work.

We had our resumes out everywhere.
No one would give us anything.

In the evenings we would sit on the floor
with our bowls of rice and butter.
Beside the phone in case of call backs.
Then soak our tired feet in the tub
and go to bed.

Her with her favourite book about a time traveller
who finds love in ancient Scotland.

Myself with a biography of Claus von Stauffenberg.

And it was strange to do everything three hours
before you had always done it.

And it rained incessantly  
so that you came back home wet
but somehow smelled like fire.

No one to talk to but each other.

It was odd and cold
and ours.

De Niro

Bobby Milk
along Hester Street,
Little Italy;
all pale 
and silent 

before the driving
of taxis
and taking a dive
to get his shot

and Tribeca 
and Stella Adler
and the hours of Marmont 
with cubby hole smiles   
and Belushi 

while the Best Man in a Leading Role
fails to show,
the mean streets 
break into laughter,  
and little Marty
behind the camera

never stops

Let's finish up with a little music.  The other day my husband and I went to hear Ultrafaux open for Anat Cohen.  Here is Ultrafaux's "North Avenue Stomp":

Their "Bartender Blues" sounds like an appropriate choice as Ryan has been published in The Rye Whiskey Review:

The Comet is Coming's "Summon the Fire" makes for a good change of pace:

I'll finish with their "Start Running":

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Welcome to Mike Griffith!

Above is a picture of the ruins of Johnny Cash's home in Hendersonville, TN.  It's a wintry picture, but the poem below is worth reading at any time.

Listening to Johnny Cash with my friend Arthur

Listening to Johnny Cash with my friend Arthur
in his room at the nursing home--

I can only understand about every third word
that Arthur says, but it's alright,

Johnny says enough for any three men. 

On Tour with The Mighty Commas
(For a different Ian than the one I know.)

Watch the guitar, watch the guitar;
feel the drums, feel the drums.
Grinding light, deafening roar,
singer dance, smoky swirl,
push of sound, crush of crowd.
The stage is wet, the stage is steam.

Strung-out, happy and glazed.
The Mighty Commas are on tour, 
their greatest hits, controversies, and memories:
minors with backstage passes,
a Friendly's somewhere in Ohio, 
and that wreaked hotel bar in Oakland.

The next city, some other city
the next state over, under altered skies.
Got this lady, but gonna get that girl. 
Do it again, doin' it dirty, doin' it clean,
comma, man, comma, comma, comma, man.
Watch the guitar, watch the guitar.

Michael A. Griffith began writing poetry while recovering from a life-changing injury and its resulting disability. His chapbook Bloodline will be released in fall 2018 by The Blue Nib and his chapbook Exposed from Hidden Constellation Press is available on Amazon and Soma Publishing. He is a 2018 Pushcart Prize nominee.  Recently, he became the US/Canada Poetry Editor at The Blue Nib.  

I'll start off with a more recent song by Johnny Cash, "Hurt":

This is his "God's Gonna Cut You Down":

A younger Johnny Cash sings "Far Side Banks of Jordan" with June Carter Cash:

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Welcome to John L. Stanizzi!

Many of you may know John L. Stanizzi for his current POND series, four-line acrostic poems that have appeared in Verse-Virtual, Amethyst Review, Halfway Down the Stairs, and most recently One-Sentence Poems.  Here are some longer poems, meditations on feathers, bones, and the natural world.

                                              I thought of the coarse white flesh
                                              packed in like feathers,
                                              the big bones and the little bones…
                                              -The Fish
                                              -Elizabeth Bishop 

Banking around the yard, arms straight across,
airplane wings, bombs dropping on the cities
miles down, in alliance with my tank-feet,
and the sounds we are born with, the wailing
airplane noises, the shells’ piercing whistles.


Or in the river, raising up one arm,
in an attitude reminiscent of
a striking cobra.  But this no snake;
it’s a periscope searching for its foe,
the sub of my body cruising for war.


Either way, there is no “settling for” here
among gliding flashes of winged silver, 
avian cosmopolitans, or the
cormorants crashing and crashing into
the bight, flight becoming an ancient stroke.


Whether hollow or light as a feather,
bones’ roads intersect, cross paths, bring us all
together in bewilderment between
sky and the ocean, adapting, dreaming,
becoming what we’ve witnessed, what we’ve loved.


Birds entered the sea; fish have gone ashore,
their imperceptible seeking after
water or air to swaddle in safety,
or its illusion, the living creatures
with bones like feathers and feathers like bones.


Banking around the yard, arms straight across
in an attitude reminiscent of
avian cosmopolitans, or the
sky and the ocean, adapting, dreaming
of bones like feathers and feathers like bones.

                           -O yes, our lives are going on without us.
                           -O no, we never finish chasing.
                           -Hidden Drives
                           -James Tate from Absences

James Tate and I were dear friends, though we never met.
I called on his wisdom when the two lovers met.

The landscape would grow more strange as the weather cooled.
Remember November’s kiss; lips shivering, met.

The city was charming and the years passed as air.
We would sit on the hill where sky and river met.

Were we so blind we couldn’t see the snow or rain?
Were we deaf -- couldn’t hear when fear and weather met?

Father of a small city, my back is aching,
even now, when morning denies endeavors met.

My bones have become feathers; they’re the weight of light,
and from shade one comes to harvest all pleasure met. 

James would joke that our lives will go on without us.
Don’t ever pretend, John, that you two never met.


This very short piece is violinist David Schulman's improvisation, "Music at the Canopy," performed in the Chicago studio of artist Tina Tahir:

"Anhinga" is a longer piece by Schulman's group Quiet Life Motel:

I'll add two more songs, taking the music in a different direction.  The first is Gary Burton's version of "Chega de Saudade":

The next is a version of "The Moontrane" with Larry Young and Woody Shaw: