Saturday 1 July 2017

...LISTEN (a poem after Jan Garbarek/Thomas Transtromer)

I started this poem between August and October 1985. That was the time when I had just moved into my flat in Belsize Park, alone. I was listening to Jan Garbarek's new album, It's OK To Listen To The Gray Voice, in which each of the tunes is based on, and titled with a line from, a Tomas Transtromer poem. There is a lot of inward looking in there, and it was resonating with me at that time, for reasons I got then, but understand a lot better now. It wasn't based strictly on either the title track, nor on "One Day In March I Go Down To The Sea And Listen", which is why the title has its ellipsis at the start. I know I have made notes for both those other titles, but I haven't found them yet.

...Listen was published in December 1987, as part of 'Five Jazz Poems' in Hollands Maandblad, which, as I've said before here, was one of my favourite of my all poetry publications. I've continued to write poems when the jazz music takes me. I was putting some together, maybe for a 30th anniversary at Hollands Maandblad, or for this blog, or something else, when I started looking at this one again. And when I did I reworked it considerably. In fact, what I hear in it now is a lot of 'Witchi-Tai-To', the Jim Pepper tune, in Garbarek's later version, not the one with Bobo Stenson in 1973. It's got the feel of a ritualistic chant, which is an approach to a feeling of aloneness from another side. It was a gray voice I was hearing, and I was not sure it was OK.

                   after Tomas Transtromer via Jan Garbarek

You're learning

something you've known
long time gone
crazy with rain
falling in waves
driving away
wipers beat

blinking not
crying but
trying to

make her repeat
what you don't
want to hear

but you think
needs to
appear & fill
between you


so you'll feel
pain, know
enough to
push her
away, though
she's not
there in the
other seat

so push instead
the last dry
grain of love
to a place
beyond care
you'll never
find again
not in this
rain & then


you can

& drift away
away with
& drift away with
the rain



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