THE DESTINATION OF THIS TRAIN IS...

Dice Don't Lie, Dog! (call)

3 black youths shoot craps on

early metro transit car in this, the frigid urban north.

Far from Gershwin's summer livin' easy,

again, again repeat 2 taps, dice rattle

in superstitious hand, then muffled clatter

onto nonstick rubber walkway

a math they argue/practice

loud ’til perfect.

“Dice don’t lie, dog!” winner calls.

 

Temp Employee (response)

Others fill the train, oblivious

professional commuters

mostly focused inward

sounds from mobile phones

lights from e-devices

billow into harried brains.

This observant temp employee

prepares to clamber into cubicle

stress among the many Monday morning

urgent textbook project publishing demands.

Again, again repeat, 2 taps seek after

transient luck or triumphant certainty.


This gambler life, who wins? (FAQ)

 


AT THE LANDING, SOMEONE TO LOVE

Riverwalking couples

take 8 dozen increasingly refreshing steps inside

against harsh swelter of their tourist promenade.

They shelter at The Landing, San Antonio’s home for jazz.

 

Here lives a legacy of Creole strutting Dixie-style

Jim Cullum’s brass out-ringing.

Listeners to Riverwalk Jazz on radio from coast to coast

arrive expecting cornet-fronted weekly swinging.

Six nights a week they’ll hear just that.

Come Sunday, day of rest, too bad, he’s off,

 

it’s us, Small World, same cover charge applies.

 

No block-chords from the keyboard,

no dance-happy banjo plucks.

We musician substitutes

do hope they will enjoy Mary Parchman’s lyrical piano stylings,

deft & thoughtful touch

And me, I’m Polly, teasing mellow chords from my guitar.

For their listening pleasure we’re giving intricately coupled treats,

Together play our heartfelt best to glue them to their seats.

 

Mary’s was the music at the Eastwood Country Club,

voicings always preaching gospel from her bench.

We women players in these unenlightened days,

rarely met until my band employed her, steady work

four back-breaking, also joyous hours every week.

 

Our sets are balanced, artfully designed,

paced to lure elusive tourist crowds:

tune order, tempos, variety -- both instruments & vocal styles,

Just us musicians

[no break]

free playing harmonic insights on-the-fly.

 

Soon enough, these wanderers are with us,

rising falling keeping close

We say they’re in our groove.

We know how to end a set: uptempo.

But first it’s Percy Mayfield’s ballad,

“Please Send Me Someone To Love.”

 

“Someone” for me is Mary, the one who sings with soul’s intensity,

she fingers perfect chords invoking world tranquility

bound with a plea for human love that’s personal

her voice soars on my favorite tune for guitar fluidity

 

“Unless man puts an end to this damnable sin

Hate will put the world in a flame, what a shame

Just because I'm in misery, I don't ask for no sympathy

If it's not asking too much

Please send me someone to love.”

 

Mayfield’s lines reveal a momentary unity,

odd, attentive listening makes concert hall

replace The Landing’s normal noisy barroom walls,

silent through this ballad, they eventually reward enthused applause.

 

Together, we and they become entirely

a greater band of different people,

briefly grouped small world of harmony.

Sight-seers of melodic language, we ourselves become

sent someones, as we music lovers all agree:

 

Heaven sends to all humankind

Understanding and peace of mind
 


Catherine A. Lee began exploring poetry as a percussive voice with jazz musicians at a loft performance space (later nonprofit) she founded in Boston and ran for 13 years, called Studio Red Top. Among her most successful performances were joint gigs with her mentor, Beat poet Ted Joans in 1986-87. In San Antonio, Cat sits in “on poem” at jam sessions and visits many music-free local readings. She’s been a producer of jazz poetry special broadcasts on KRTU-FM 91.7 since 2010 (archived at http://soundcloud.com/jazz-cat-lee). Collaborating with musician educator Cecil R. Carter, media producer James E. Sanders, Jr., and other creative souls, Cat organizes jazz poetry workshops online and in real time (instructional videos at http://vimeo.com/jazzovation). Cat blogs literary and musical inspirations derived from radio and workshop research on her Facebook page Jazz Ovation Inn and a Tumblr blog (http://www.tumblr.com/blog/jazz-ovation-inn).