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Three Jazz Poems

Gordon Marshall By

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What I hear is gone,
playpens clattering

with rattles like drums,
hum of heater on the floor—

I remember this as I tap
the tones out of the

bass clarinet bell. I yell,
Hell! I can tell

the past that steers
the turnstile giving me gate

at the Village Gate
or Vanguard, swapping

songs with 'Trane, washing
the garnet buried in my vein.


Elvin, avian basher
of the tom, bomber

beating a path through
briars on the 4 AM earth

false dawn declaring
cold and dark,

as your skin, sweating
under mesh, as you mash

twin cymbals of hi-hat
to Coltrane's snaking sound.

I'm around, on the ground
briars rising around me

sky as dark as thorns
are red, as your blood.


Hard as a blue diamond
the soul of a swinging

pendulum minded
master of the jazz jury,

out as jazz is in. I'm in,
polishing the jewel

taking my knocks to
my teeth—the size

of it—the size of the jewel
ceasing to be a stone,

but the emblem
of a people, hard as the blue

diamond, and swinging
through socks to the jaw.


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