We buy a couple of corn dogs and head over to the free stage. My eyes wander off and I see a teenage girl standing on the back of a motorized wheelchair, lurching left and right, while her driver zig-zags across Main Street like a Hollywood stunt driver. I’m thankful city planners have shut down the streets to car traffic. Not just for the jazz festival.
But so people can move, for four days, any way they choose.
In the limestone shadows, there’s room for Ray-Bans and navy polos to sashay and stay cool. Or go melt in the civic plaza heat, where the black clip-ons swing down over her bifocals to get a look-see of that man’s oversized short sleeves, how they shuffle below his elbows. And cornrows appear. Tight red denim. Even scraps of leather. Straw blues hats. Neon t-shirts. Black ties and Fedora hats. Lots of kids, too, with blinking plastic bracelets.
And that’s just the visual stimulation.
I’m bewitched by jazz, by its auditory command. Like dropping an egg in a frying pan. It sizzles, spits, and I have to pay attention. If Coltrane likes it over easy, then I had better keep my eyes on the yolk. When I’m driving, I often find myself hitting the pause button to discern if it’s safe to make a left turn, especially when Art Blakey sits under the hood, cracking his eggs on my engine block. Because good jazz blows a brass whistle and wants to redirect my traffic.
Poetry cooks like that, too, giving me permission to shut down a street, eat a corn dog, and just pay attention.
Let’s Play June Jazz!
All month long we’re swinging with poetry at Tweetspeak. We call it June Jazz. We write found poems and share them on Facebook, Twitter and personal blogs, though we always link back to here. Last week we wrote to the tune of “American Beech Trees” by Patricia Cook.
Maureen Doallas gave those words a good shaking.
In winter’s twilight
spring-lit forsythia march,
shining like lanterns.
March in cold season:
forest stripped, trees’ trunks black,
snow almost festive.
Ice-cold New York night
slowly secrets winter’s trees
in snow like paper.
The Path of Treasure saw the lanterns differently. She wrote,
They do not sleep;
they hide silvery secrets
under thick, worn skin
A whisper emerges
from shadows, Americans
standing in rows of granite–
their quivering souls, still;
the spirit of the outstretched
hand shakes in all seasons…
I feel the grip of hope and place
my hand to my heart , salute
the courageous, the lanterns
on the way. They do not sleep,
these everleaves, these heroes
stark and tall, like the tree.
And John added his own punctuation and jazz. He wrote,
THE LAST KIND
Men, women, and girl singers –
of the three kinds of humans
you were the last. You loved jazz
and the smoky little rooms
where the tunes got played. They
took note of your crusade, your
scat without scatting, your
vibrato-less gee-whizzy Fifties cool,
plus this pluperfect female shape
even George Shearing could see.
But they kept listening because
of your uninhibited phrasing,
your mad human offerings
of punctuation: semicolons where
men could breathe, commas to
put women at ease, parentheses
that gave girl singers courage.
That you always sang haunted
was widely-felt, but the ghosts were
only known by a few. Born to
be blue was always more than
a song. Then rock-n-roll invaded
our land and the loud was too
much, so you made yourself silent,
an esoteric casualty of war.
There will never be another you
is always more than a song.
Here’s how June Jazz works …
If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to Every Day Poems.
1. On Mondays, the Every Day Poem in your inbox becomes a chord progression. Find your own tone. Build an idea around a single poem line. Just let yourself go and write a found poem, baby.
2. Tweet your poems to us. Add a #junejazz hashtag so we can find it and maybe share it with the world.
3. Or leave your found poem here in the comment box.
We’ll read your tweets and share some of your weekly play each week. At the end of the month, we’ll choose a winning poem and ask the playful poet to record his or her poem to be featured in one of our upcoming Weekly Top 10 Poetic Picks.
Here’s today’s Every Day Poem. Now go jazz it up.
Buy a year of Every Day Poems, just $5.99— Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In May we’re exploring the theme Trees.