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‘BOOM! JUST LIKE THAT!’ — In memory of Mark Baldridge (1948-2014)


Photo Al Young

At Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma, CA (2008), poet Joyce Jenkins — in the musical company of her partner Mark Baldridge, a feeling flautist — reads from Joy Road, and other recent work.


In memory of Mark Baldridge

I didn’t know about Peet’s Coffees or how early on
you, its PR savior, penned poem-like ads for Peet’s
you welcomed Joyce to validate — or rate at least.
I, the lonely long-distance runner, didn’t know you,
the shining long-distance swimmer. You cooked.
The fluent German you spoke – I didn’t know about
this, either. Joyce did. You hid nothing. I blinked.

I didn’t know you were Cleveland-born, blue collar,
before GM moved the plant out to Santa Barbara.
My dad worked for GM, too, for Chevrolet, the line.
I didn’t know you as a near-Motor City émigré like
me, like Joyce, like Motown Records up and moving
Detroit to L.A. (“Now, what I say?” – Marvin Gaye)
Boom! Just like that! What went wrong? Why?
And I could tell you if you really want to know.

Distance without measure clocks us, gauges
the breadth of our ignorance. And when it comes
to one another, we don’t know shit. Laws of motion?
Dreams? Hey, kind silence lets us breathe. Moot,
its reckless, pointless calculus invites, enshrines.

You liked your music classical. You loved flautists or
flutists, whatever they called themselves: Jean-Pierre
Rampal, James Galway, bamboo flute masters –
you loved them all. Until Petaluma, the Poetry Walk,
and Geri Digiorno’s intro, the sound of sweet Joyce’s
Joy Road, Detroit poems, who knew you blew flute?
I didn’t. But, Mark, there you beamed. Hers. His.
Soulful, a unit, you two, now united, now untied.

Music-stand and chops, you said, “I’ve got your back.”
Right behind your partner’s side, you fingered silver.
You sang each other. We’re talking verse. The twists,
the turns, repeats I couldn’t guess; melodies in keys
we shared for sure. I got your heartbeat, though.
I loved the chords. I felt the flash, your hush, I breathed;
a watershed (Wasserscheide) in the history of back-stories.
How coffees, once illicit, light us up! No sugars, no creams.
Please, Mark. I didn’t know to thank you until now.

Al Young
13 January 2015
© 2015


Photo courtesy of the Baldridge Family

‘The Man Behind the Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival:
Mark Baldridge, 1948-2014′

By Sharon Coleman
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(January 8, 2015)


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Mark Baldridge and Joyce Jenkins,
Petaluma Poetry Walk, 2008
(Photo: Al Young)


JEAN PUMPHREY (1931-2014) In Memoriam


Jean Pumphrey 2008


In memory of Jean Pumphrey (1931-2014)

You sighed and smiled out from an island

culture and nature still treasure, still bless.

Yes, Jean, who else can this mean but you,

blushing Audrey of the hungering heart,

a sucker for artistry and art? You taught

the same way you fought dark ignorance

in Saint Matthew’s realm. Your sweet secret:

let silenced light shine — around the body

poetry loves; not bodies of seawater, not astral.

No body of experts. Bodies. Just the light

around the body poet Robert Bly got the blues

about, right around the time we met, San Mateo,

the 1970s, just when the mythic Sixties kicked in

and scared out the sacred from us, what little hell

we had left. We loved Bly’s blues. Ears wide open

to cries in all keys, you listened. You let pupils,

patients set the beat. Spirit-leashed, your god-dog,

Rumi, ushered you through blinding nights.

You uttered peace. Sheltered at the edge, the light

around the body longs to leak and blend with all

it knows it is. You told us, Jean, you sighed, you

smiled, you lived to reach and teach, to touch to heal.

– Al Young

© 2015 Al Young


Photo: Kindness of Strangers

Poets Al Young, Jean Pumphrey and Glenna Luschei | San Francisco 2008



NOW IN SILENCE, MUTE (‘Where I Write #26′ at The Rumpus)


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Ernest Lawson: “Spring Night, Harlem River” (1913)


Where I Write #26: ‘Now In Silence, Mute’


Now in silence, mute, a place still quiet

within reason, ear-protected, I hear

the flow and pump of blood. My loud

and your soft heart beat out as dance

stun and shush us where equipoise


and noise don’t mix. Unsteadying, a diet

of uninvited cell phone monologues, big

overseer helicopters, TV screech and

media preachments, ambulance, paramedic

rescue shrieks, the way too-trafficked


hum and squall and scream of barriers

that mask the sound of handcuff clicks.

Anointing to me, annoying to some, silence –

soundtrack to our native zone – serenades.

As every trembling star and particle feeds


on space, so every song and utterance

leans against silence: a resource so

unheard of, we can’t help but kill it. Dead.

The silence of a smug, unthinking nation

– that’s something else again. Citizen


as pathogen. I write through those ears,

too, from silence breathed as nourishment

that charges and changes. Consider the kiss

in which we find and switch each other on

– the silence I write from recharges this.

©2014 by Al Young
This poem, commissioned by poet-editor Corrie Greathouse, debuted at the online journal in celebration of the author’s 75th birthday




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– Sarah Vaughan (singer), Clifford Brown (trumpet), Herbie Mann (flute), Paul Quinichette (tenor saxophone), Jimmy Jones (piano), Joe Benjamin (bass), Roy Haynes (drums) | 1954


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© JJWebb/Cruzio Blues Café

To animate the avatar of Al Young reading and singing with the Dartanyan Brown Trio, click here.
Dartanyan Brown, bass | Jorge Molina, piano | Sly Randolph, drums



after Yip Harburg & Vernon Duke

It was here in that one-time, one-step, lighted blue
of Paris at ease, close to the Cluny, in splendid,
straight-up noontime shadow that your slow and
measuring eyes met more than their burning match.

The smooth warmth of your whisper along my neck,
the nappy back of it, where you’d peeled back
its soft, excited collar to tell me everything you’d learned
or discerned in a city where love and prices flirt.

A product of standstill winters, sudden summers, sultry
prejudice, and heartland steak-and-whiskey afternoons,
you’d blown in from the States, an orphan of the arts —
Mary Cassatt
, Josephine Baker, Mary Lou Williams,

Jean Seberg. What breathlessness overtakes me here?
Brushing and combing out memories of your touch,
in a season as uncertain as coastal fog moving inland
from the loveless edges of that country we’d both fled,

I shiver. Whom could we run to if not one another?
Back home we knew what it was like to be the other —
displaced, despised, imprisonable. We watched and fought.
The colors of loss deepened. Yearning to break free,

unconsciously American, we counted our chickens, certain
that the ships we’d always banked on would sail in.
In Paris, our adopted country of each other’s arms,
whose borders blurred all time, all common market sense,

we saved the slow but steady squeeze of night, of time,
the way it smothered darkness, the way it mothered light.
The April of your frightened French was like that, too;
you had no words for holiday tables, for chestnuts in bloom.

Parisian light, like light at home — Detroit, Des Moines —
lit up your waifish eyes. I said, “Think twice before you speak.”
Over here you mostly knew the blues; rue rhymed with blue.
There couldn’t be too much light, too much touch.

Al Young
© 2001, 2006, 2008 by Al Young


Meet J.J. Webb (a.k.a. Beau Bleu), the Poet-Animator


Animation and design
© 2008 by J.J. Webb


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Click on Joséphine to view Chasing A Rainbow, the life of Josephine Baker




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Joséphine Baker, James Baldwin, Charlie Parker, Sidney Bechêt


Paris Now Instagrams




Up Jumped Spring lead sheet38px-Speaker_Icon.svgClick to listen

Up Jumped Spring

for Nana

What’s most fantastical almost always goes
unrecorded and unsorted. Take spring.
Take today. Take dancing dreamlike; coffee
your night, creameries your dream factories.
Take walking as a dream, the dearest, sincerest
means of conveyance: a dance. Take leave
of the notion that this nation’s or any other’s earth
can still be the same earth our ancestors walked.
Chemistry strains to connect our hemispheres.
The right and left sidelines our brain forms
in the rain this new world braves—acid jazz.
The timeless taste her tongue leaves in your mouth,
stirred with unmeasured sugars, greens the day
the way sweet sunlight oxygenates, ignites
all nights, all daytimes, and you—this jumps.
Sheer voltage leaps, but nothing keeps or stays.
Sequence your afternoon as dance. Drink spring.
Holding her hard against you, picture the screenplay.
Take time to remember to get her spells together.
Up jumps the goddess gratified, and up jumped spring.

© 2006 and 2007 by Al Young