The Plantation Club


pulling back
to five night stands, you
state the theme
a big theme, Clark,
the St Louis trumpet theme -
in the Chase Hotel,
Plantation Club and Delmar’s Riviera,
Peacock Alley, Glass Bar,
the twenty-seven hundred block,
Miles, Chet, Max, Bud
huh …
put me down for Terry, Clark
at midnight forty-seven

big night for you
you figured it
your theme resolved the question
and you didn’t change your mind


not the labor of gardening,
the vertical care, twining, tying,
in the morning (the first
train passes)
not the frost-lifts fearful to break or squash the stalks
when the tendrils come
coaxed, reliant on each other
knowing deep down they share this tree, this climbing thing.
not the wrench lying in the toolbox
awaiting its turn, patiently
ready to fit
or burr the bolt -
something we actually know.

The Blue Note, East St Louis

Stoddard St, where J.B. lived


Deluxe Café on North Jefferson
upstairs in Club 49 -
from his hotel Duke said no I’m in bed but then
wrapped his overcoat round his PJs and stormed down the street
to see Jimmy play,
recruited him on the spot, 1939,
having heard the fat notes sucked from the room
into the body of the bass
through the fretboard down
spider fingers, shoot
up arms and shoulders to enter the mindbrain
where they stayed as shades,
and by ‘41 he was alone in a California sanatorium
shivering TB
just a chair and his horn
then gone.

The Chauffeurs Club


a small dog walks through your face
where four eyes are laid
in a row,
lids low
almost resting on the bottom rim
some dandy guy walks in
tap tappety tap tap tappety
hat pushed back
you look out past the glass
at dog night rain -
rim shot, sock cymbal, snare
he whispering in her ear
and then the long lazy turn
back into the room, a stare
above the kit between outside and in
beat forward, clicking the airspace
leaving room
for disappointment nurtured in the din
then - tap, tap - she turns too
the dog walks back through your eyes
and, finally, you grin -
the sticks come to rest
I catch my breath
she says
I’ll have another gin.

The Rosebud Cafe


she did not confess
or declare
or rage

the vodka was sharp
the man, stupid

mais, peu-être, aujour d’hui
l’amor est un petit mal
c’est belle, n’est-ce pas?

caught in the oilstream of fancy flight
she is pretty non?

mill creek /

1701 Kansas Avenue, East St Louis, where M.D. grew up


ring finger on ashtray
blue lines drifting
catch breeze from the door    a murmur,
her dress rustles
“is it time yet?” glasses clink
throbs pulse below
white skin between cuff and watch

distant horn sounds
they yawn and walk
a tree    black car stops,
grinds off  
we have silence
like music    birdsong, leaves turning, distant city hum
across water we can smell
but not see

The Arcadia Ballroom and The Wedge Club


a c-melody airplane  
lifts across the river
oak trees pull away below
just furze again
and the plane shines like a tiny cross
in the light blue sky singing 

put your mood away
get out the happys
your crazy quilt
leave the animals alone
dance in time to the day 

Gaslight Square


what did not happen:
the child was born alive
a sound
the howl of an otter
sky cleared of clouds

the vocation was put
back in the jar
lid screwed tight
back on shelf
label out

you picked up your guitar
the room chugged
most of us left

Club Riviera


only three pieces on the snow
bear the weight
your name
a series scratched and wiped away now

thumb behind melody
beating topography
lines swell through valley
as hard birds high across tomb land cry

there was no place
but years, cruel notes
like smoke fans
drift down and to the side

your eyes
as if studio practice only
not actual life

Jazzland Cafe


actuel, atlantic, nessa, west wind, praxis -
record labels
open the grave of popular song
and black saints come marching out
wearing lab coats and goatees
smearing the neighborhood
with blats, growls and half-valve grinds
the art ensemble of chicago

one -  three -  four -  two
six cylinders of compressed impotence
ready to explode on you

but you’re not a machine you’re
an animal
like a lizard or a lark
sensing your own significance,
nosing through your dispositif
you’re some complex organism driven to tactile sites
vein, tumbril, quaver, flattened fifth
every night you want to touch
the thing that’s there
that co-evolves with you