Sunday, December 20, 2015


Five niggers
to play
nigger music
in a non-nigger house
in New Jersey.
They were cool
with that.
The rest of the world
was still white:
Brown Vs. Board
was a colored victory;
Jackie & Willie
were great colored ballplayers,
a credit to their race,
but were harbingers
(and still "colored.")
Cigarettes were twenty-five cents a pack.
A drink a buck.
Cap of heroin was fifty cents.
Brown band leaders
sick from a night
of no pay
& bad food
in a cheap
Chinese fish shack,
leaned into blondes
with bad skin.
Crew-cuts & skinny ties
told the tale
of a country heated
by recent wealth
and power. Ike smiled.
Yet underneath
the green golf carpet
mischief brewed.

In this Van Gelder home
St. Nick
had to,
if he had a mind,
jimmy his way in;
crazy voodoo artists,
brought their own gift,
were at work
while their drunken painter friends
lapped at the bowls in the bowels
of The Cedar Bar & San Remo's.

Percy plucked & walked rhythm's spine;
Cluck brushed a high hat;
Miles, precise & dark, played with blackness;
Bags danced;
and Monk, beautifully unhinged, splashed color through his fingers.

These times
are terribly light.
And still white.
Crazy art
is bought & paid for
before it can do anything
like breathe.

I was seven then,
almost seventy now.
I celebrate the birth
of something.

Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2015

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