Jazz Station

By Michael S. Harper b. 1938

for sandy and henry carlile

Some great musicians got no place to play

Above the freeway, over the music,
we speak of the strategy of poems,
bleeding wives who ulcerate
our voices rhythming in the cut-heat
Portland stink from the Willamette River;
arteries of smog fixate this place
in each recording, music, music, on Impulse.   
This little racist community has few friends;   
thousands of deerslayers hum into Beaverton,   
the one talk show driven out for their talk
as the liberals dig in to KGO out of San Francisco;   
we troop toward the Lloyd Center for the ice-skating,
the colorette bloomered dream merchants on rented skates,   
and the Sunday Chronicle near the big hotel.

The poets, man and wife, write in the dimming air,
their daughter in the toy rooms connecting them,
the typewriter tacking the nails and snaps of her gown.   
This image of separation begins in adoption:
her mother adopted out in San Jose; her father
disowned, abandoned, torn out of the will; her name: Phoebe.

And the sun does shine on them for this visit   
in squat pigeontoes, and this beach ball sings.

Michael S. Harper, “Jazz Station” from History is Your Own Heartbeat (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1971). Copyright © 1971 by Michael S. Harper. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: History Is Your Own Heartbeat (University of Illinois Press, 1971)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Michael S. Harper b. 1938

Subjects Music, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Arts & Sciences

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Michael S. Harper

Biography

Acclaimed poet and teacher Michael S. Harper was born in 1938, in Brooklyn, New York. Known his innovative use of jazz rhythms, cultural allusion, historical referent and personal narrative, Harper is “a deeply complex poet whose mission is to unite the fractured, inhumane technologies of our time with the abiding deep well of Negro folk traditions,” said John Callahan in the New Republic. Harper does this, noted Poetry reviewer . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Music, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Arts & Sciences

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.