jingle jingle!

jingle jingle!

12.3.15

JAZZ POETRY - A NEW PROJECT: POETRY BY KEITH ARMSTRONG & IMAGES BY PETER DIXON

































'Some great stuff here! I always love the headlong gay abandon and celebration of life in your poetry Keith.' (Harry Gallagher).






LOVER MAN



A blurred blue evening sky,
an exhausted sun
propped up by the rooftops.
A vision
of the wracked shrieking body
of Charlie Parker
running a losing race
with his music,
the man reenacting
his bitter tortured love.

A memory,
a sense of the World,
and a nagging restlessness:
that mixture
of sorrow
and the joy
of loving,
turning
in the cold dark air,
the sound of life’s full circle.
‘Lover Man’,
a whirlwind spins,
sings in my ears,
swirls out
to the street
where the children play
and a blind man taps
in a cul de sac.

The swirling soaring passions
of Parker
are ready 
to boil
again and again,
burning away
the revolving strictures
of dull monotony.

To snatch inspiration
from the lap of conformity,
Charlie has rotted
but his spirit leaps
and speaks from grooves,
renders me
airborne again.

I cry 
and float 
on the sweetness.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

THE SUN ON DANBY GARDENS


The sun on Danby Gardens
smells of roast beef,
tastes of my youth.
The flying cinders of a steam train
spark in my dreams.
Across the old field,
a miner breaks his back
and lovers roll in the ditches,
off beaten tracks.
Off Bigges Main,
my grandad taps his stick,
reaches for the braille of long-dead strikes.
The nights
fair draw in
and I recall Joyce Esthella Antoinette Giles
and her legs that reached for miles,
tripping over the stiles 
in red high heels.
It was her and blonde Annie Walker
who took me in the stacks
and taught me how to read
the signs
that led inside their thighs.
Those Ravenswood girls
would dance into your life
and dance though all the snow drops
of those freezing winters,
in the playground of young scars.
And I remember freckled Pete
who taught me Jazz,
who pointed me to Charlie Parker
and the edgy bitterness of Brown Ale.
Mrs Todd next door
was forever sweeping
leaves along the garden path
her fallen husband loved to tread.
Such days:
the smoke of A4 Pacifics in the aftermath of war,
the trail of local history on the birthmarked street.
And I have loved you all my life
and will no doubt die in Danby Gardens
where all my poems were born,
just after midnight.



KEITH ARMSTRONG







































































FOR DAVID STEPHENSON


David Stephenson was a deep friend,
I met him through books.
He came from Carlisle
with that intense and craggy look.
We studied life together,
smoked Full Strength
and sipped Real Ale.
He liked his women big.
I learnt from him
to visit pubs at lunchtimes
to end up pissed in lectures
but, most of all,
to read the letters of Van Gogh,
the diaries of Franz Kafka,
to go inside 
the jazz 
of Ornette Coleman
and Cecil Taylor.
David told me that 
‘Most people are thick’
and, as a socialist of a kind,
I sometimes think he had a point.
I wonder where he is today.
Back across country I surmise,
smoking and looking at the sunrise,
with a fat woman kissing his neck,
listening to Mingus 
and the sky.


KEITH ARMSTRONG





POEM FOR A BLUES HARMONICA

(for Ad van Emmerik)

A poem is an organ of the mouth,
a verse I suck and blow.
It sings from my heart on the wind,
it breathes with my life.

I place my poetry between my lips,
like licking my girl friend’s breasts.
I smoke it like a cigar
and squeeze the good juice from it.

My poetry is a fire,
it screams blues murders.
I craft it with my gentle fingers
and shout it around the world.

This poem is a drink wet with rhyme,
a harp in a rowdy beer museum.
I am a drunk whose rhymes stagger,
my words are music in your ear.


Keith Armstrong














































MELLY

Something sad about clowns;
something thin between laughter and tears.
Pity the dignity, the love and the hate,
the twitching wire between body and soul 
and you on that stage,
drunk on rum and borrowed blues again;
unique in the balance you keep to yourself -
never quite losing it,
never quite making it;
bawling out between Magritte and Morton,
playing the droopy-drawered clown
with yourself,
you

do the Melly Belly,
the Ovaltine,
big brash belly laugh blues.

                                                                                                    
Keith Armstrong



THOSE PORTHOLE BLUES AGAIN

It’s Tuesday again
and the sun in the Stella is shining.
Yellow dust fills 
the dappled Porthole
with a Golden Fleece
and the jazz, hot jazz, 
belts out
raging
from this pulsating lounge.
The saints and ghosts of ancient seamen
go marching in.
Let the liquid trumpet
pour out,
my legs slide to the floor
with the trombone lilt.
Cry me this river,
lurch for the ferry.
I will ping the dart
of a blue note
through your soul.
I am only a poet,
a saxophone with words,
an improvising shantyman
thanking the landlord
for still serving me:
despite all
this poetry slurping,
this lovely drivel
dribbling
from my wicked Geordie tongue.


KEITH ARMSTRONG


































CHET - FROM A WINDOW

(in memory of Chet Baker 1929 -1988)

The constant onslaught of Amsterdam
surged through Zeedijk 
on that hot night
when a full moon
dragged you
flying to your death.
In your room, 
in the Prins Hendrik Hotel,
your clothes lay 
neatly folded
in your suitcase,
with your body
a foetus on the street below.
Great white hope
fallen
offstage,
a love for heroin never shaken.
Sorrow was your stuff,
a plaintive,
lyrical anguish,
an excess of gloom
and charm.

This undernourished and parched body,
a singing corpse,
searching for an uncollapsed vein,
an expert driver hating the road
and the bleak hotel of his doom.
Such a foolish love.

Oklahoma farmboy on a golden trumpet,
his teeth knocked out in San Francisco,
become chained to an album a day
for a thousand dollars in cash. 

And the Italian you learned in a Lucca jail,
your spirit surviving its deportation, 
a lonely and melancholy master drifter
whose pianissimo
touched the soul.

Friday 13th May 1988,
Chet’s heart stopped 
and his horn
lost its tongue.




KEITH ARMSTRONG




LADY DAY

(dedicated to Billie Holiday)

‘For flowers are peculiarly the poetry of Christ.’ (Christopher Smart)

Our Lady,
Art in Heaven,
feasts on
a bed of petals,
croons over
the Angel Gabriel’s
String Orchestra,
floats on beauty’s scales.
Swollen with scent,
her skin is so pure,
alabaster smooth.
Such long stamens,
such eye lashes:
such cascading, flowering hair:

this Lily,
perennial
of the flowing Valley,
voices fragrance,

voices
the driven snow.




KEITH ARMSTRONG


from ‘The Darkness Seeping’ : The Chantry Chapel of Prior Rowland Leschman in Hexham Abbey. Poems by Keith Armstrong with drawings by Kathleen Sisterson.

 Sara Vaughan

NIna Simone



















the jingling geordie

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whitley bay, tyne and wear, United Kingdom
poet and raconteur