SAN FRANCISCO POETS
Home from the Sea
Marine architecture in a seaport city
Every person out here a ship
Even the cranes east of the hill
Like 19-century masts
Flying canvas from braided rigging
The hands move fast
A mate walking among them
A glowing DNA lightning rod
Glove insulating a hand
To bring their ship into port.
The sailors’ eyes lift, casting lines to the pier
To pull their ship close to a mooring.
Always some are at sea
Riding choppy waves under flashing rain
Blinking at much brighter lights
Keeping out of this weather just enough
To dryly focus on your tack—
You mob passing, surging, and talking with me.
Back in the heart of town
Bristle and gristle makes it,
Keeps it, and everybody wonders
What else would last as long as this—
Anxiety and laughter, risking it all for a good life.
Birth of Free Jazz
Solid deep sound of the foghorn
In the morning a hustle-down whistle where people gather by the water.
2010 and 2012: The pitching was great, the hitting clutch,
The players young & old were fearless,
And it all worked out by the Western ocean.
Archaic disturbances of the mind
Analogue through reality
Soothed by currents underwater
And the crashing of waves.
A rocky Chicago beach of concrete shards,
In stacks like records of the days they did the work. It was a bigtime job that paid off big for a long time. The ones who remember still talk about it.
Some workers went home and listened to Albert Ayler,
At one time the fastest man in jazz
Right at the core of its free j. avant garde
A lightning bolt of time.
Bernard Stoller started ESP Disk
That recorded The Fugs and Burroughs and so many,
But wanted Ayler to be the first
So the l.p. Spiritual Unity was printed and released.
Witness-participants told the story in sound and shape.
John Litweiler in The Freedom Principle wrote:
“He screamed through his tenor saxophone in multiphonics and almost uncontrolled overtones, absolutely never in a straight saxophone sound or in any identifiable pitch. His ensembles . . . improvise[d] with utter abandon . . . In his most creative years, frenzied ecstasy in the fastest tempo . . . humanly possible alternated with the most maudlin ballads imaginable . . . [H]is fastest solos acquired momentum through the kinetic energy of his tornado speed lines. . . . Everything about his music was astonishing.”
Played with Ornette Coleman at John Coltrane’s request at the latter’s funeral
July 21, 1967, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in New York
Himself only 34 when he was found in the East River on Nov. 25, 1970.
Must have skwonked and squiggled to the last breath,
The who and the whom, dealt and squealed tidal sine waves
Across an electric screen with acoustic images—
Steady free drums and bass sing his newest eulogies!
Kasper Collin’s documentary
My Name Is Albert Ayler (Sweden, 2007)
Came to the Red Vic Movie House a few years before it closed.
Ayler went from Cleveland to New York to Copenhagen
and Stockholm, and back home.
Later dressed like a cowboy, singing rock,
The fastest tenor in the West.
The skyrocket spawned streams
In all directions that continue the changes.
Time becomes . . . (both arms up) something!
The spirit tangibly solid.
The shining air notes of mellow brass
Come over from a field half in mist
Where apples in mid-fall
By a fence
Hover like hummingbirds
Or sound systems,
Cards that portray a face
Representing over time
Some expression and giving you a question.
Your mind takes bite after bite
And your cells dance
With the external sequence
Of lucent lines of music
Written with pips, peaks, and dips.
Like a hat dance or a train ride,
Somewhere people talk.
June 15, 2012
It was that golden threshold of late day, when everything turned in a dazzle
-----the sparkling windows of dense homes, the tiptop Beaux Arts space of the City
Hall dome, the necklace of lights winding up Twin Peaks, Red Rock, Goldmine Hill,
and Mt. Davidson. A tint of burning light suffused the air itself, magically dusting
out to western ridges where it glowed a rosy gold. A sense of peace filled the land
-----yellow, orange, and red holding the scene for long moments, until, gathering
swiftness, the western sky turned blue again, a bright royal blue of the day between
capacious dark Parisian blue above and a band of turquoise topping the still disap-
pearing rosy ember of sunset.
© Richard Hack
All rights reserved
Richard Hack edited and published the excellent poetry journal, Oxygen. He is a brilliant writer
and widely published poet, fiction writer, opinion writer, and reviewer of books and movies.
Richard lives in San Francisco.