Friday, February 1, 2013

Joel Lewis


I knock at the mystery door and it opens
& there’s Stan Getz in a lovely cantaloupe polo shirt
the inevitable drink in hand, inviting me in:

You’re Jewish right? I can tell.
You’ve got that open smile.” Welcome to my
mishpocheh, Stan. Kenny Barron playing solo piano up from the tape deck.

He shows me his latest album: “Stan Getz:
The Business of Visitation.” featuring Chet Baker on ham sandwich.
It ties in so well with your interest in Gnosticism” I said.

The faint lettering of his air quotes seemed
like a geologic gesture: “Beautiful things
seem to come out of nowhere, but they don’t.”

He reached into a desk drawer for a Chesterfield.
“’Trane once said about me:’ Face it we all like to sound like that if we could,”
he paused as he gently blew out a smoke ring,
but when I’m off I think:’ I don’t want to be the Jewish Lester Young.’”


Liberty Enlightening the World drifts
past my glasses, paced by Stan Getz’s
languid iPod take on “Tenderly”
& framed by Upper New York Bay’s
grisaille morning exterior.
Ten years of this particular
and vivid waterfront correspond
to the normal work week tension.

This afternoon, an elected official
will hand me a certificate
suitable for framing
recognizing my service to the people
of the approaching pear-shaped island

While I daydream those unwritten poems
floating through the Narrows
and down into the Atlantic Trench.


They stick that tiny top hat
onto that scared rodent’s head
& the citizens of very interior Pennsylvania are delighted
that they too prefer the visible to the obvious.

As I was fiddling with my brand new uppers, I checked out my kind
of advent calendar, “Prestige Records 1950’s All-Stars”, & so happy birthday
Stan Getz on the day we jokingly reenact
the leftover lunch meat of Pagan Europe.

Getz, at his most sublime, seemed playing his audiences dreams:
masculine lushness dappled with bay rum aftershave.
He also did interesting things like bring the bossa nova
to the pre-Beatle masses, firing sidemen for farting on the bandstand

& holding up a Rexall’s with a water pistol. Drug-addled Stan failed at that
as the cashier ignored the junk jittery goniff to wait on an elderly gent.
Still, that ‘incredibly lovely sound’ stays in the air of this seccessionist grey morning.
It makes me wistful for Lucky Strikes, gabardine suits & cracked ice melting.

Asked by reporter Edward R. Murrow for the secret to his sound,
Stan sighed as he replied, “When I see things through my eyes,
I see things.”


Foggy St. George sleeps the sleep
of late morning sloth
& there go the men with boyish haircuts.
Now a cop car parks on Slosson Terrace,
idling for those possessed by hidden agendas.

The sun never enters my dreams,” says
a woman to her daughter clutching
a Top Tomato bag as they board
a Totenville bus. A peddler hawks
mini-Ganeshas in front
of the browning field minor league stadium
in advance of an evening festival.

Big orange Ferryboat Marchi drifts into Slip 2.
Two hours before: a Mesopotamia of advancing ankles.
Now old gents eat their pizzas into relief maps of Crete
before tossing them into the harbor.

The flags atop borough hall flap
to the beat of a new round of breeze.
I’ve been out here a long time
mildly defending the honor
of minor characters & their mild situations
& now moving along in the face of need,
cattycorner from the old lighthouse depot.


Debark off the Sufferen-bound train
Garrett Mountain as the limit on my sight
& the stairs to the street a plunge to a city
where people have given up on space
putting their money on living through time
& where beggars try a novel take on pale face moi
Can you help me out? I need 63 cents to get to Paramus
& nobody here speaks English!”
A beggar in a strange land gets himself a dollar bill.

The man in Paterson who can buy his children
Happy Meals & still have change in his pockets
is a little aristocrat & charged up
on Cianci Street cappucinno I pass
the Lou Costello Memorial
then stride uphill to the Great Falls.

No little lyric miracles today.
Boxing Day someplace else in the world
& could that be Clifford Brown’s “Sandu”
coming from the speakers of the green jalopy
parked by the entrance to Libby’s Lunch?

© Read Myles

Joel Lewis's most recent books are North River Rubdown (Accent Editions,2013) & Surrender When Leaving Coach (Hanging Loose, 2012). He is currently at work on a long poem project concerning the Hudson Palisades called "The True People", with sections published in "House Organ" and the Spring 2013 Blazevox journal. He lives on the high ground of Hoboken,N

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