Tuesday, January 1, 2013


a beautiful song from one of the best from one more silly new American film best forgotten



Jelly Roll Morton 
RCA Manufacturing Company, Inc., studio #3 
 New York, N.Y., 28th September 1939

for Sally Lipsitz

Elegy for Fats Waller

Lighting up, lest all our hearts should break,
His fiftieth cigarette of the day,
Happy with so many notes at his beck
And call, he sits there taking it away,
The maker of immaculate slapstick.

With music and with such precise trampage
Across the deserts of the blues a trail
He blazes, towards the one true mirage,
Enormous on a nimble-footed camel
And almost refusing to be his age.

He plays for hours on end and though there be
Oases one part water, two parts gin,
He tumbles past to reign, wise and thirsty,
At the still centre of his loud dominion —

I\'m Always In The Mood For You by Fats Waller on Grooveshark

Bud Freeman in Belfast

Fog horn and factory siren intercept
Each fragile hoarded-up refrain. What else
Is there to do but let those notes erupt

Until your fading last glissando settles
Among all other sounds — carefully wrapped
In the cotton wool from aspirin bottles?

I've Found A New Baby by Bud Freeman on Grooveshark

To Bessie Smith

You bring from Chattanooga Tennessee
Your huge voice to the back of my mind
Where, like sea shells salvaged from the sea
As bright reminders of a few weeks' stay,
Some random notes are all I ever find.
I couldn't play your records every day.

I think of Tra-na-rossan, Inisheer,
Of Harris drenched by horizontal rain —
Those landscapes I must visit year by year.
I do not live with sounds so seasonal
Not set up house for good. Your blues contain
Each longed-for holiday, each terminal.

Summertime (From Porgy And Bess) by Bessie Smith on Grooveshark

To Bix Beiderbecke

In hotel rooms, in digs you went to school.
These dead were voices from the floor below
Who filled like an empty room your skull,

Who shared your peretual one night stand
— The havoc there, and the manoeuvrings! —
Each coloured hero with his instrument.

You were bound with one original theme
To compromise in your head your terminus,
Or to improvise with the best of them

That parabola from blues to barrelhouse.

Mississippi Mud by Bix Beiderbecke on Grooveshark


Hello, Central!  Give me Doctor Jazz!

Jelly Roll Morton

To be nearly as great as you
Think you are, play the same tunes
Again and again: small fortunes,
Diamonds for each hollow tooth.

Oh! Didn't He Ramble by Jelly Roll Morton on Grooveshark

Django Reinhardt

A whole new method compensates
For your damaged fingers: sweat
In the creases of your forehead,
Mother-of-pearl between the frets.

I'll See You In My Dreams (Stardust Memories) by Django Reinhardt on Grooveshark

King Oliver

Now all pretenders to the throne
Learn how the patient gums decay,
Music hurts: though they took away
Your bad breath, the crown's your own.

Shake It And Break It   1930 by King Oliver on Grooveshark

Billie Holiday

You fastened to your bony thigh
Some dollar bills and waited for
The cacophonous janitor
And silence and the cue to die.

I Can't Believe You're In Love With Me by Billie Holiday & Lester Young on Grooveshark


Collected Poems
(Wake Forest University Press, 2007)

poems by Michael Longley
songs chosen by the Birdhouse