November 4 Poem

Late December 1965,

I’m only two years old,

crawling around on the carpet

looking for something to put

into my mouth, probably

heading for the dog bowl,

and across the country,

in Chicago, Miles is at

the Plugged Nickel

with his band, that great

second quintet, pushing

the boundaries of their music,

playing what Tony said

was the last thing people

expected, anti-music, and

play they did.

And now, fifty years later

I sit in my office listening

to Miles and the band

playing yet another

version of ‘Round Midnight’

and I’m wondering what is

was like to be there, in that

small club in Chicago’s Old Town district,

dark and smoky and feeling

the music wash over you in waves,

the bass thumping in your chest,

and the drums throbbing away,

and Herbie’s piano running up and down,

the tenor sharp and agile,

and that muted trumpet,

like no other, dark and brooding.

Glasses tinkle and a siren

wails somewhere outside.

I imagine it’s raining and the

neon lights cast garish jagged

reflections on the water

pooled on the street outside.


I wonder what my mother

was doing on that night in ’65.

Maybe standing at the stove

stirring a pot of soup, or cleaning

up after a little tribe of kids.

A Christmas tree stood in a

corner casting colorful shadows

across the walls of that suburban home.


While the band warms up in the back,

preparing to go on stage, my mother

is reading a bedtime story to me,

and when the band begins to play,

I’m fast asleep, clutching a soft flannel

blanket in my tiny fist, a brown

stuffed monkey at my side,

and maybe I’m dreaming

of a quintet playing in a dark,

smoky club in Chicago,

the Plugged Nickel,

on a rainy night.



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One Response to November 4 Poem

  1. Amy O'Keefe says:

    Oh my goodness – this was wonderful. So atmospheric, so much fantastic nostalgia.

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