I’ve a couple of Poetry & Jazz events coming up this month, the first of them this Wednesday, 11th, at the Guitar Bar in Nottingham.
Dave Belbin has been organising things here for a while now, all evenings featuring the hot little four-piece band led by trumpeter John Lucas – yes, that’s the same John Lucas who runs Shoestring Press and is an estimable poet himself. The usual procedure is to feature two guest poets, the first up on this occasion being the formidable Lydia Towsey.
That’s Lydia on the right …
Not sure if Lydia’s is going to read with the band – apparently some poets do, others prefer to go it alone – but I’m hoping they will join me for at least half of my set (or should that be, I’ll be joining them?) and after some discussion this weekend, John and I have sorted out the three poems that seem most suitable, all three, not surprisingly, in one way or another about jazz. Oklahoma Territory is a longish piece about the big bands that criss-crossed the American heartland in the 30s and early 40s, Oklahoma Territory; Ghost of a Chance is a snapshot of tenor player Lester Young towards the end of his career; while Evenings on Seventy-Third Street, a poem I’ve rarely, if ever, read in public, and certainly not with accompaniment, extols the virtues of dill pickles, fried chicken and the wonderfully precise vocals of Lee Wiley. Here it is …
Evenings on Seventy-Third Street
Soft rock of traffic steadying down,
four pieces of chicken, fried potato chips,
dill pickles – ridged and thick as fingers –
coleslaw. Coke. Despite our best efforts
by the time we walk it home, circles
of grease, dark through the paper sack,
have stained your clothes and mine,
a smear across the silk blouse you bought
for best, below the spots where coffee
dribbled from your mug two nights before,
watching the news on tv.
While you snap the lock shut, slide
the bolt across, I am sharing food
onto paper plates; your book open,
face down where you left it,
pad on which I’m writing
is on the floor by my chair.
The radio, which we left playing,
chances its arm at a contemporary
string quartet and I sense you will
rise soon, licking your fingers
free from chicken, wiping them
to be certain, down your skirt,
before lifting Lee Wiley from the record rack –
the Liberty Music Shop recordings 39-49 –
singing songs of love, but not for me.
An hour now since either of us has spoken,
felt the need to speak.