Journey Man

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The old jazz man at the Crawford Grill sits
at the back of the club; three o’clock
in the day, just killing time.  He spits
on the sun-cooked concrete.  “Hell,”
he says, “Look at that.” He points
his chin to the stain of moisture
quickly drying until just a faint
stain remains.  “We ain’t here forever,
he says, “You see the crap, gone
like that.  Every song you sing
got a minute to live, then it’s done—
nothing left.  You dead and ain’t nothing
left.” I know it’s about this thankless art,
about my fingers on keys, about my heart.


Here is a good day—steak and eggs
and a mess of beans, a jug of coffee
and your crotch bruised sweet, the fat leg
of a woman sleeping by you, her reverie
a sign of the hard work you’ve done
to knock her cold; the slant of sunlight
through the window while a soft hum
of rain calming the world; and last night
the music you turned out made people
weep, tears streaking big men’s faces,
women drunk with nostalgia, mumbling
“Take me home, baby.  Take me to places
I ain’t never been before.” The sweet aftermath
of perfection: even when you know it won’t last.


Yes, me, too, I stood there on Wylie, the rivers
like a postcard behind; and watched that ball,
still grey, cut a slow flight through air to shatter
the Crawford Grill; three stories: the grand hall,
Crawford Club where the big shot black folks
would pretend they owned the world. No sound
but the grumble and clatter of concrete,
and like they say, when all is said and done,
there is nothing left but dust, broken streets,
some liquor talk; and every magic music
that crowded those rooms, night after night
has gone, lost for good.  I kept me a brick
which I put to my ears, just so I might
hear me playing with sweet Billy Eckstein
the night he smiled and called me “King.”


Crawford Grill, Hurricane Lounge, Savoy Ballroom,
Musician’s Club; catch me on a Saturday
night, Lord, the Hill is jumping, take a broom
and sweep negroes up them stair walkways,
and find a woman with meaty strong calves,
big ass, and a sweet mouth; everything is sticky
with funky jazz, and down south blues, tough
as a convict’s hands; man we dance, sweaty,
loose, crazy, and people know my name,
call me by my name.  This is my church,
and come Sunday, I am broke, no more game.
Just take me by my old man, where I perch
on his porch, waiting for his scathing
and worthless pity: his grudging blessing.




Wednesday, January 15, 2014