March 2011 WLT 
March 2011 WLT

Clouds gather under a blue moon,

like trouble brewing as strange fruit

continues to swing – keeping time –

while Columbia turntables refuse to spin

the song; is vinyl too black, too flash to be

sleeved in white prisons? The answer lies


like white gardenia petals on a bruise

too subtle to separate from wind; like

a trumpet caught in the ill wind of a jet’s

prejudice in the company of clouds – a

rumble in a jungle of noise, the forgotten b-

side that holds its breath. Trouble brewing.


There’s nothing random about rain;

It clears the sky’s throat for the sun’s shrill

voice; the white hanky is for black sweat.


They’ll all laugh when I say it, whisper

as though I’m making whoopee with Communist

ideals. They’ll laugh like they laughed

when Louis appeared coal-sketched on screen,

years before he lifted the smoke and called

Eisenhower a spade, said let’s call the whole


Soviet thing off, as sweetly as he sang that song

with Ella –– and there’s silence where the applause

should be; because it’s OK when the needle hits

the dark flesh of wax and causes blue screams,

but when the tip hits the dark flesh of a woman

and she wails for justice; shooting off ideas


as she reloads stimulants, suddenly music is

treble trouble. And everybody knows

that the calm comes before the clouds . . .


There’s nothing random about rain; so blow

Louis, blow from cheek to cheek, blow

under a blanket of blue until you get a kick

from a laughing Ella and switch the tone

so swift   //              so hot      //              so dark

that the only bright thing will be the spotlight


of struggle illuminating a girl in Baltimore,

learning as time goes by that life isn’t a fine

romance, love, but your soul won’t desert you;

like the note can’t leave the music, like

the shadows can’t leave the darkness.

The secret is to listen; to the slow creeping


embrace of the trumpet’s protest, the percussive

defiance of the piano’s syncopation, the indrawn