Joe Williams at the Blue Note/Chicago, 1955; March 30, 1999

Sam Hamod

 

 “Everyday, everyday, everydaayyy 
 I got the blues, 
talking of bad luck and sorrow 
Well you know I had my share…” 

 – Joe Williams with the Count Basie Band

 

  

Tonight, they tell me you died
on a Vegas street,
Walked several miles from a hospital
Just checked yourself out and escaped toward home–
No, no–
I don’t want to believe it, rather, we’re
back at the Blue Note, Chicago, 1955
You’re standing on the bandstand, light green rolled collar, your
Big white teeth smile as the Count says,
” Now here’s a young man whose recently joined our band–
we think you’re going to like his singing”
then you smacked it out, like a 1×12 smacking water, “Everyday
“Everyday, everyday, everyday I got the bluesÖ”
and now, hearing that you’ve passed into that other side of the song,
everyday we’ll have the blues, talking of bad luck and sorrow, well you
know this will add to our share–but let me hear you, let me look at that big
smile again– swinging uptempo with the band ” The Comeback“–telling your girl, hold tight,
hold tight baby, and we could hear the pleading in your voice as you asked her
to hang on, to just wait a while longer because you’d be back–and then you were
sliding into “Rollem Pete” you made us all jump for joy, and you were up there
just like a rollin’ baby boy–and we were up on our feet dancing and clapping
Basie just kept smiling and the band kept blaring, trumpets
High- cresting, the saxes laying down that harmonic line and the trombones
filling the background, their slides darting in and out of the the light
then you’re joined by Lambert, Hendrix and Ross and you make the Blue Note shake
with “Going To Chicago” — and you tell it like it is, cause ain’t nothin’ in Chicago
that a monkey woman can do– and we were like that, hometown people, full
of good folks from home, and you knew it, and we knew it when you sang it,
and the Count said it, “Chicago is always like home to me” and somehow,
you up there with that big rolled collar have always stayed in my mind, in
my heart, now tonight, I refuse to believe
that you stole out of that hospital late at night
I donít’ want to remember you struggling down that road
Struggling for breath, each slight step a pain, a
Gasp, a pulling for air, just wanting to get back home
To those lights, to get back to that stage, to get back
Among your friends–why was it no one understood
A singer like you can’t be kept away from your people, you
Were given that voice to sing, to get out among people, to make
Them laugh, to feel wistful, to remember when they were in love, and what
Love is, that special feeling that embraces us with its happiness and sorrow,
That love in all its configurations is still that warmth, that warmth in your voice
In your broad smile, and in that way you held the mike and moved from jet black to silver hair
All in an instant–almost too fast for any of us to remember how it all changed–none of us
Noticed the time passing because there was always you, Ella, Sarah, Dinah, Count, Duke,
Hamp, Diz–now we have only Nancy Wilson, and I know she’ll cry tonight and a lot of days
And nights as she remembers your big wide voice pleading, “Please Send Me Someone To
Love,
” and she’ll ask the lord to send you to the right place, where you’ll join the others
Singing with the angels–and we’ll be earthbound, having you in vinyl, on cassette, on CD and in
our memories– so tonight, I know they speak their truth
That you have died, but my truth is that you are there at the Blue Note in Chicago
You are there at Blues Alley in Washington, DC, a little hoarse, and you are there with your arm
 

 

 

Sam Hamod has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry by Ray Carver and Ishmael Reed. He has published several books of poetry and his current book An Old Arab in My Mind: New and Selected Poems will be published this year. Hamod has been widely anthologized in print and online. He is the Editor in Chief of CWLJA

Fertile Soul

Mahnaz Badihian

 

I labor a new woman in me every day
I am not in my twenties
not even in my forties
But the art of multiplication is still in me
I am a growing new garden
new buds.
I feel life crawling on my shoulders
with the gods of fertility,
that will never let me stop being a woman

 

 

Mahnaz Badihian is a poet and translator whose work has been published into several languages worldwide, including Persian, Turkish, and Malayalam. Her work has appeared in many literary magazines including Exiled ink! and in Marin Poetry Center Anthology amongst others. She attended the Iowa Writer’s workshop with a focus on international poetry while practicing as a dentist in Iowa City.  Her publications include two volumes of poetry in Persian and a best-selling translation of Pablo Neruda’s Book of Questions into Persian.  Her most recent publication is a critically acclaimed book of original English language poetry, From Zayandeh Rud to the Mississippi. She has an awarding winning selection of poetry (XIV Premio Letterario Internazionale Trofeo Penna d’Autore, Tornio) translated into Italian by Cristina Contili and Pirooz Ebrahimi. 

Every Morning

Mahnaz Badihian

 

Every morning I visit every tree in this garden
even before I wash my face or comb my hair.
All the trees know a few facts.
They know the same woman will water them day after day,
the woman who picks one apple from the red apple tree
She is the woman, who asks if the rain lets them sleep at night,
the woman who goes to every tree
even before the sun can shine on them.
Not all the trees are happy in this garden
Some are moody on certain days, some get
annoyed with the cold or the heat
Some are so difficult they hate being touched
Some so brave they can grow tall even in the absence of rain
By now I know all their names
I know what makes each one smile

The man who sleeps in my bed is morose every day
but I lack the art of knowing what makes him sad.
He is like those trees, never talks
Once I asked him if it was the rain, or the cold
or the yellow color of the sheets?
Is it the color of my eyes, the size of my thighs?
Or even the way I lay down?
It is Sunday morning and I go to the garden to watch the trees

 

 

Mahnaz Badihian is a poet and translator whose work has been published into several languages worldwide, including Persian, Turkish, and Malayalam. Her work has appeared in many literary magazines including Exiled ink! and in Marin Poetry Center Anthology amongst others. She attended the Iowa Writer’s workshop with a focus on international poetry while practicing as a dentist in Iowa City.  Her publications include two volumes of poetry in Persian and a best-selling translation of Pablo Neruda’s Book of Questions into Persian.  Her most recent publication is a critically acclaimed book of original English language poetry, From Zayandeh Rud to the Mississippi. She has an awarding winning selection of poetry (XIV Premio Letterario Internazionale Trofeo Penna d’Autore, Tornio) translated into Italian by Cristina Contili and Pirooz Ebrahimi. 

 

 

 

today i do such simple things

jim saliba

 

i get up

i take a hot steamy shower

wash away the night

i do not run out of water

the water does not bypass my home

on the way

up the hill

to my neighbors

the water runs into my house

washes over my skin

and drips into my open mouth

today i walk downtown to mail an express letter

no one stops me

no one asks me for a pass

i walk to work

no barricades block me

and if i wanted to go and buy a used car

and if i had a son

and i wanted to take my son

to look at

and maybe buy

a used car

i would not worry

we would go and look

at the car

i would not have to search for a concrete barrel

for us to hide behind

i would not have to stop the bullets

with no weapons nothing only my hand

reaching up and waving and shouting

the child the child

to stop them

before they shoot my son

and kill him

i would not worry

because today no one questions

my right to live on this land

we would go and see the car

and if we wanted

we would buy the car

and drive home

today i do such simple things

although today is yom kippur

no one locks me in my house

or barricades my street

i get up and go to work

i earn money to pay rent and buy food

and soap

and postage for the letter

i work on computers

no one questions my religion

or my ethnicity for my job

i do not have to work as a waiter or a builder

but if i chose to work as a waiter or a builder

or on computers

i could work today

no matter whose religious holiday it is

today they would not close my street

or lock me in my neighborhood

because today no one claims

a 3000 year old text makes it right

to throw me out of my home

to take away my land

to say there go to Canada

let the Canadians take you in

nobody questions my right to work

and to shower

and to eat

and to look at

and even to buy

a used cab

today i do such simple things

i hear the birds sing in the tree outside my window

i take a hot steamy shower

my neighbors up the hill do not take all the water for themselves

so i have water to wash and to drink today

i walk downtown and go to work

and if i want

i will go

to look at

and maybe buy

a used car

and if i had a son

i would take him

and i would not worry

my son would not press into my side

to hide from the bullets

and they would not shoot him in his belly

and he would not

die

 

* “this poem is about the death of mohammed al-dura, the 12 year old
palestinian boy who was photographed crouching beside his father,
moments before the boy was shot dead by israeli soldiers, at the
netzarim junction in gaza”  – jim saliba

first appeared in the Texas Observer

 

jim saliba – A descendant of turn-of-the-century Lebanese immigrants and rural Southern farmers, jim saliba grew up in Tennessee and Georgia. He studied drama at Stanford University and studied and taught poetry with June Jordan and her Poetry for the People program at the University of California at Berkeley. jim has constructed and directed performances in austria and california and is the artistic director of h e l p : human elemental laboratory of performance.