summer 2014 621            I.

Across the round, white-clothed table,
half-emptied coffee cups, rumpled
napkins and scattered silverware,
the dark, sad-eyed young woman sits,
at the close of the breakfast buffet.

Across the table
I tender a hello,
circle the corners
of conversation.

Lean in,
there’s more here than,
I’m from New Jersey…

You look up,
I’m a child of refugees….
my parents fled…
the Civil War…
Sri Lanka….
that’s why I look like I do…
it’s where I’m from…

Yes, I was the only Indian girl at school
in the small German town
where I grew up….
Sure, they treated me different,
but I didn’t care….

I don’t believe you didn’t care
how they treated you –
wonder why you lie about that still –
as I wonder what keeps you attending
yet another boring meeting with your husband,
as you will later this morning,
and why you visit war museums each afternoon…
wonder how you can really think
the French Quarter
might not be worth it…
the improbable and fantastic
just outside the door –
a block away
another world –
so far from this windowless
chandeliered room,
the breakfast buffet
that never changes,
day after day.

But before I can speak,
jump in, respond,
with all I do not know –
you tell me how
the depression
sits deep
and low
making a flightless bird
of one so young and beautiful
and how no one understands
no one
no one
no one

summer 2014 235


The bleached blond young rail of a man,
wearing only a pair of frayed khaki shorts,
climbs from the riverbank early each morning
wiping sleep from his eyes
walking barefoot,
tenderly, down the walk
as I run by.

Later, when I run back
he’s there,
sitting on the wall,
down by the levee,
picking his foot.

I don’t know how
to approach you,
don’t know how
to say –
I’ve noticed you each morning…
as I fear so many do –
wanting something
from one so beautiful
and broken
so very young,
a child really…
I just wonder if you are alright…
if there’s anything I can do….

summer 2014 563


There are conversations I know not how to complete,
conversations I know not how to have,
here in the city of sorrows,
the end of the river,
end of the line,
where the bayous pool
with tears and dreams
unspeakable stories
flowing down from Memphis,
down from St. Louis,
Baton Rouge,
down Plantation Row,
down here
to the end
or the beginning

could it be –
could it possibly be –
the beginning again
of everything.

summer 2014 188


But tonight,
at Preservation Hall the band is playing,
taking the stories and weaving the songs,
making a poem of it all
of everything
as the jovial young fat man,
sparkling eyes,
giggles his trombone over the room,

summer 2014 416
as the old man, thin and black as his clarinet,
silver keys of hair,
sings of the love he has lost,
as the trumpet player bangs his foot,
one, two, three
one, two, three
as the piano player leans into the song,
long thin fingers
dancing the keys
as the gap-toothed drummer
gathering the beat,
sipping beer from a plastic cup
between sets.

summer 2014 418

Each taking a turn,
each passing the story,
the song,
around the room
hearing, responding,
playing it back,
playing it out
over the night
over the city,
playing in us
the possibility –
it’s happening here –
such a meeting,
a hearing,
a conversation,
our own,
a coming together
the gathering of stories,
the turning,
and turning around
to something new –
hearing each other,
making music, like they’re doing tonight,
the likes of which
we have never heard…

summer 2014 420

We spill out into dark streets,
the waiting crowd
for the next show,
it’s worth it
it’s worth it 
worth the wait….
the best jazz,
the most healing of music,
anywhere around…

summer 2014 290

Peter Ilgenfritz
September 29, 2014


4 thoughts on “Jazz”

  1. I read a sadness and joy. I enjoyed the description. I felt as if I was a part of the story or event. I remember when I was a young man I would just sit and watch others and wonder what they are thinking. Now it is getting harder and harder to wonder about others and not just get stuck with what I am thinking. Corky


  2. Peter, This is at a whole other level of poetry writing. You are starting to leave out too many words and tell the story with flashes of images and feelings. Exciting to read. Thanks for these regular offerings. Hola from Barcelona. Carol


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