Al Young title

APRIL IN PARIS

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© blackparis.com



‘APRIL IN PARIS’
– 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.
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Dartanyan Brown, bass | Jorge Molina, piano | Sly Randolph, drums

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APRIL IN PARIS

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

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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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clickable

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Joséphine Baker, James Baldwin, Charlie Parker, Sidney Bechêt

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Paris Now Instagrams

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UP JUMPED SPRING

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Up Jumped Spring lead sheet38px-Speaker_Icon.svgClick to listen

butterfly-nolegs-2
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

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FOR JOANNE IN POLAND | Al Young

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For JoAnne in Poland

JoAnne Ivory Gibson | KrakĂłw, Poland, circa 1965

 

FOR JOANNE IN POLAND

You are not to trouble yourself

with your ladyness

your blackness

mysteries

of having been brought up

on collard greens

           bagels

         &

Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee

 

Nor must you let the great haters

of our time

rattle in your heart

 

They are small potatoes

whose old cries

for blood

may be heard

any afternoon of the millennium

any portion

           of this

         schoolroom globe

 

Al Young

© 1969 and 1992 by Al Young
(from Heaven: Collected Poems, 1956-1990)

[Photo note: JoAnne Ivory, a Detroit Central High School girlfriend, married Donald B. Gibson, now an American literature scholar. In the mid-1960s, Gibson was awarded a postdoctoral Fulbright Fellowship to teach literature and English in Poland, where this lovely antique likeness of 'Jody' was snapped.]

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LIVING IN THE DEEP WEST: In Memory of Wanda Coleman (1946-2013)

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Wanda Coleman (1946-2013) in memoriam

coleman25 afropoets.net

LIVING IN THE DEEP WEST

 In memory of Wanda Coleman (1946-2013)

SoCal and what you called the Deep West keel

over without you and your defiant signifying.


You skipped right over absinthe, opium, mescaline,


LSD, heroin, orgy and weed to reach the Zone.


You wrote Days of Our Lives, you won an Emmy,


you slid into the Zone on slippery bars of soap


opera, all choruses, no breaks, just one long jes-grew


coda 20 volumes long. In code and flat-out truth,


you logged L.A. behavior hot to cold. In erosong


you sexified her landscape’s dips and swells, her


heavens, her hells. Anything but quiet or quaint,


your pictures in wall-painted language (sliced


between canyons and summits and ridges) stick


to the ribs and to the heart half-free or caged.


Concrete streets and freeways couldn’t always go


the distance or reach the intimacy you loved.


What was a Watts-born woman to do but learn


to boogaloo? Or sail the desert? Or walk the sea?

— Al Young
26 November 2013

© Al Young

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the nation logo

E. Ethelbert Miller: ‘Remembering Wanda Coleman’ | The Nation, November 25, 2013

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LEEWAY | A Poem by Al Young

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lavender, antique clock and white candle via Knick of Time  © Angie Chávez

LEEWAY

“Consider me,
Descended also
From the
Mystery.”
— Langston Hughes

Time-weary, still, he feels safest winter nights

in the kitchen by the stove. At the back

of his too-studied brain, cave-dwellers groan.

No music, no texts, no ghosts at his side. Just

silence enough to let him listen to the Mystery

from which he’s descending. Few ever know;

fewer care. When the pull of phone calls dies

and paramedic fire truck sirens dial down,

he can boil eggs, toast bread, drizzle oil,

peel fruit and thank and see forever into

this moment that staggers, opening endlessly

here into now. Deeper than anything he can

remember, fiercer than any fictitious futures,

pure Mystery stops him cold with warmth.

—Al Young

© 2013

“Consider Me” by Langston Hughes was first published in 1951, the be-bop inflected period of his great “Montage of a Dream Deferred”. Copyright © 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes.

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