Arvil Shaw is gone.
Walked him some bass
right off the planet,
joined the rhythm section
in the soul-on-soul choir
with Mingus, Walter Page,
and the Judge, Mr. Milt Hinton.
Time rolled on by, picked
those jazzers right up with it,
sucked up the 1900s,
a century gone, Gate,
like a bop beat, snapped off,
and the wars, industry, death, birth
pound still in me, but it's ready
for twilight, but time is ready
to take it on that slow fade
to oblivion. Arvil who?
See, I can't forget their faces.
They haunt me, speak to me.
What those old jazz ghosts
want with me I don't know.
White chick, can't play a lick
of no nothin but stride, swing,
let Bechet ring his clarinet
around a southern sunset,
and those old ghosts start in
We're lonely baby.
Ain't hardly nobody left
to tell it. Tell it baby.
When Basie swayed
into the keys, Lord he grinned
like he just beat the Devil at a sock hop,
weaving notes and space into jump beats
that bammed his blues straight, no chaser.
He'd lean back, have himself
a satisfied little taste, the music
somehow still swinging.
And when Duke, at once
so light and earthy, an Ariel
with the barest touch of Caliban,
spread the wings of his tux
over the piano bench and threw
back his sculpted head, brought
that first big chord home,
Oh sophisticated ladies stepped
with such symphonic grace,
like Fifth Avenue fashion queens,
emerging in band box sunshine
from wide plate glass windows.
I love my ghosts.
They ride around my imagination
in their old tour busses, jumbling
over the ruts of rural America and me,
gig to gig, poem to poem,
talking low, nodding. They drink
from flasks and laugh, throw craps,
wait for me to slow down
- Add a