The Other King of New Orleans

Sidney Bechet, grandson of Omar, a
slave murdered because he was a slave
back in OldNewOrleans, later on Sidney Bechet
might’ve been the other king of New Orleans
but there was Louis and room for only
one such king here then. So in
Paris Bechet found both loyalty &
royalty & was duly
crowned. Sidney Bechet called

all nonclassical music ragtime.
Whatever it was, he
played it & when he
went from clarinet to soprano sax,
Bechet invented that, whatever
that new soprano sax lightning was,
it was from Bechet & Bechet
invented that. Paris: key grease on

fingers, fresh-shaved
reeds at the ready to uncork lightning
into the smoky violet hazes of clubs &
concert halls, in this Paris that had
adopted then adored him for a
lifetime & lifetimes to come, Bechet ok, on

“Tin Roof Blues” he played it like soft
crimson sopranosax kisses, caressed protected
like a mamajazzbear right before releasing
Bourben Street-borne baby into
the big bad ensemble &
maybe Charlie Shavers who was maybe the
only trumpetman of his time who could keep
up with Bechet’s lightning these bluest
blasts, maybe Charlie Shavers made sure every
heaven-sent solo-halos where every note
was Heroism Itself didn’t go off &
wander too far, got-to keep on our
planet these many immortal notes of Bechet,

whose grandfather was Omar, a slave murdered
because he was a slave. Omar’s grandson
Sidney Bechet became a king in Paris &
he always said, all nonclassical music
is ragtime, is my music, & this
is how he played it.


soaring on some early autumn sunday mornings

my bicycle it was a taxi
whizzing up and down and around my
street from one empty driveway to
the next. driver,
me: boyfella i was,
chasing down fare after
fare, wind whistles in my ears and
now i know the whistling’s also
maples and weeping
willows but wait, the whistling!: my
passengers all vying for a ride, a
ride from
me to some
somewhere, flagging me down,

a soggy cigar cum pretzel log
in my mouth, and
billowing above,
bright ‘n’ beautiful wayward
cherryvanilla clouds, that,

and the banana-seat
bicycle’s brakes screeching
from one
empty driveway to the
next, squeaky brakes sure but
hey (chompin on my
getting-mushy pretzel log, not
mean but all-business) like
c’mon pal? after all
i’m on duty! see? look,
listen to the sheer if-
kinda squeaky
of the crackling gravel, the
bursting-with-grit of

reliable lil’ cabbie i was,
through piney red and
gold gusts whatta
cool job! and my
passengers were
nice people, tips were fine BUT

(sshh please don’t
tell a soul) i
would’ve done all this
soarin’ for nuttin’: me,
stingray banana bike, together
through the october
gusts we
soared for a couple or
three hours
on a coupla may four?
sundays back then
all was well, really
really well.


Poem for Pee Wee Russell

Ah Pee Wee Russell
dirtiest clarinet in town
jass-writers back then all cranky
clamoring for the Dorseys or hell
anything more diluted than this,
anything cleaner neater spiffier
NOT you, so what’d you do? You
blew it up their stiffasses
man they just didn’t get with
your wrinkled suits your
codeine twitch, if you’d been
black might’ve condescended such
earthy attack but a twitchin’
white man sounds like that? he’s

gonna get some flack, you
blooooosbastard you, your cig&
whiskey breath torpedoing
notes, such rebel notes, through

the fire of your
hot as hell licorice stick,
couldn’t even figure
that smoke from
the gigantor growling mass
of licks&tics from you, aiming that
clarinet both below their waists and
above their heads, they
couldn’t wait
to jasswrite column next, to
pan Pee Wee, maybe even
demand striped vest/straw hat
extradition, for
that somethin’ else that

they couldn’t wouldn’t call
DIXIEland nope, wasn’t all
muzzled and marketable
so, what was this
off-the-grid growl, these
tics of a
codeine-man, that inevitable stain on
on a late-late night tie?: FOOK ’em

man! stay right there on that
bandstand and let ’em glare, those without
a clue, into the air, smokyblue
air that was yours-not-theirs, and
hey you always had your lovers!
out there smokin
as you
smoked through the
smoke, soul
not for sale: Back in Your
Own Backyard,
Pee Wee Russell, you kept
on twitchin, tellin’
an authentic tale.