First Prize, Poetry Contest, 2006, dedicated to Milwaukee's own Jazz Estate, also to dear friends and jazz aficianados Dick and Marian Bush


The Estate of Grace
(Tenor Player Spike Robinson,
Live! At the Jazz Estate)

The night is breathing hard
as a love poem longing to happen
deep inside the nightclub light
O, yes, the Estate brings you this gift,
jazz, world class—count on it,
right here in Cream City,
his name's Spike Robinson and right now
Spike's tenor is heavy fog smokin' through curved brass—Mercy!
Mercy has brought some heat to this cold blighted world
where the sun has covered its face.
Dusky glass over cool Miles Davis' photo on the back wall catches
Spike's profile—do you see how the breath beats in his temple
as he blows? "Either it's love or it isn't" is the tune.
Spike is reaching for that long creamy high note
before he takes the solo home,
the drummer clicks along behind him
like a train heading for the station.

Can you feel it?

Then Spike hangs his tenor on his shoulder
while the man at the piano
takes over the solo track.
Spike reaches, yes, reaches this time
for his cigarette that's been waiting for him
burning for him next to his luke warm beer,
takes a long drag,
his horn sways on his shoulder
a languorous snake charmed by the piano man
who is working his way around the changes.
The night starts to cook--Spike Robinson is smokin'!

All there is…is the music.

Just now you forget that outside this room
half the world is crawling on its knees,
you leave behind your troubles, your losses
you check the blood streaming down
the face of the earth at the door.
You forget that cigarettes kill.
You lean over to the guy next to you
who has just let one of Spike's riffs perfect and smooth
bring an "O, yeah" deep out of him,
you say, "Hey Dick, could I bum a cigarette—
make it two cigarettes?"
He gives you Chesterfields,
no filters, and you don't even smoke
except tonight you're smokin' with Spike
and you give the other to the someone beside you
who's your beloved dearly, your turbulent other,
or your significant nobody
who earlier you were lost with
in the homey mundane JUST EVERYDAY ANY NIGHT
and this morning, hey,
didn't you run out of toilet paper
and tonight you snatched dinner together
so fast it was illegal
like stealing lipstick from dimestores
and wham the 10,000th dinner hour
or dinner moment you shared together was over
and, tell the truth now,
didn't the cold night measure ahead of you like
a school kid's ruler—12 exact familiar inches tunneling into the future
with its steady little arithmetic toward the 10 O'clock news, except some
fine soul across town calls suddenly: "Do you know Spike Robinson is
playing 'The Estate' tonight?"
and the door to Heaven swings open.

You look up.
You look at each other with that look
that was in your first look,
the look that binds,
the recognition that God has just walked in
on eighth notes
and the winter night
which wore such plain clothes,
garments so tried and true
the night is indeed still young, so here you are,
in the nightclub delight, you hand over that Chesterfield to your lover,
who flicks you a light,
you fire up those stolen moments,
the forbidden smoke slides into the soul
of your lungs who forgive you instantly.

"You won't see me cryin' anymore"
is the nice old tune
Spike Robinson is smokin'!

Such sweet moments,
you don't watch your back.
Nothing is happening anywhere else in the world.
You are in the Estate of grace.

And when all the tunes come home,
the wee small hours are over
you will go back through that door
back out to the city of confusion
your pulse is high, a praise song,
you walk out right into the paralyzed eyes
of the wounded world
raise up your hands and testify:
"Get up, get up, RISE....Life is a wind instrument,




All images, artwork and text © 2011 Louisa Loveridge Gallas

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