Friday, 11 April 2014

Thelonius Monk and Copernicus

I can’t remember when I started liking jazz, but I do remember when it crept its way into my writing. 
Jazz was a little piece jw curry created and published in 1982 under his imprint CURVD H&Z.

My saxophone farts
little black farts
all over your white shirt.

This would have been a tribute to Charlie Parker. All those snappy notes flying all over the place. Nothing as smooth as Dexter Gordon or Grover Washington Jr. or even Stan Getz. This was a little off- the- cuff kind of piece that was a direct, gut response to the bebop rhythms of songs like Bird’s Cherokee.  

I love all these guys and then, there is Dinah Washington, Alberta Hunter, Bill Evans and Sarah Vaughan surrounded by Ornette Colman, John Coltrane, Billy Holiday and Ella. These and so many more brilliant musicians have either made their way into my poems or provided a filter through which the words could be seen in a more magical light. Mine is a strange little universe, a tapestry of mathematics, sound, poetry, bicycles, silence, film and science all tethered together by jazz. These are the things I love and the things I love to write about.


coherent unit of matter
celebration of the Eucharist
the velocity and distance of my journey have not separated the dream
from the dreamer
yes, I can stand on the edge of the moon
yes, I can feel the marrow-piercing silence up here
Thelonius Monk spiralled us into a frenzy past the limits of imagination
Copernicus gave us the keys to a white El Dorado
we could drive into the centre of imagination
you told me god existed
that I could piece together a ladder of bones that would take me to him
I could walk a tightrope of stars
I can no longer tell if there is even an angstrom of difference
between the spirit and the mind
the only truth I find is in the cadence of my own words
sound and meaning are lost up here in the heavens
E = be and bop, everything is unbearably relative
I am alone
a once-fallen angel risen, allowed beyond the blood rainbow
from my observatory the rivers run cherry, crimson, scarlet
my trajectory is not exact enough, I can no longer feel the pull
my escape velocity has taken me light years away from you
I dream of atoms, neutrons, protons the precise language of science
I see diamonds in the night
my heart is concave, convex
in my pocket I carry an astrolabe made of gunmetal
the distance between us is insurmountable
I have no way of telling you there is nothing but confusion and dust
I am unable to will you to point your revolver in my direction
what exists up here is not what you wanted
I have lost all sense of seasons and the position of the planets
I sometimes curse Nic for giving me those keys and sometimes myself
for taking them
I listen hard for the laws of physics, the laws of Monk to bring me home
hoping there would be a simple aria at the end of it all
hoping I might be able to explain the essentials behind the miles
hoping E equals something
that the brilliance of the sun has not been lost on us
I close my eyes briefly; the circumference of my nightmare is vast
some things, even at absolute zero, do not freeze.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dexter Gordon

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