Tag Archives: Boston

At Paul’s Mall

Freddie Hubbard on the bandstand
blowing away at abstract truth
until up jumped spring
and we smoke the darkness
of Paul’s Mall just as if
it will go on forever—
jazzed breath ascending
endlessly heavenward through
the coils of the flugelhorn—
and just as if one jazzedsex waitress
is still returning to our table
like first light, all lips without sound
when the trumpet washes over
the shape of her words
and we order another round,
another round if only for the sake
of the intervals sculpted by her
wordless tongue and teeth
on this again our maiden voyage.

Copyright 1998, 2014 by Kenneth Salzmann

You can hear Freddie Hubbard’s rendition of “Up Jumped Spring” on Youtube:  http://youtu.be/khby51sf82s

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New poetry podcasts now online

It amounts to something of an unplanned theme, but music–in one form or another–seems to unite this recent collection of poetry podcasts. Readings of my poems “When Summer Gathered,” “At Paul’s Mall,” “Jitterbug Waltz,” and “What But the Music” are now available  right here.


(You can find LANE CHANGE, the book in which these poems appear, as either a paperback or an eBook on Amazon.)


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I have a theory, or at least a hunch.

take fiveI have a theory, or at least a hunch.

I don’t think I’m the only photographer who is haunted by the one that got away, the fleeting, searing image that came into my field of view when no camera was at hand. I suspect it’s a universal experience for shooters.

For me, it came about 40 years ago when I had the opportunity to photograph the Dave Brubeck Quartet during a couple of stops on what was their 25th reunion tour, and the last tour for the great saxophonist Paul Desmond. What was left unsaid at the time was that Desmond, whose “Take Five” was a signature song for the quartet and remains an enduring jazz classic, already was battling the cancer that killed him the following year.

That’s not something I knew, however, when I pulled up to Boston Symphony Hall to catch Brubeck in rehearsal, several hours before the concert they would play that night. What I did know was that the man leaving the building through the stage door and walking slowly along the length of the drab, almost industrial looking wall that backs up the splendor the audience sees was weary, older perhaps than his chronological age of not much more than 50, and — slumping a bit and entirely alone on the street with just his horn case for company–one of the leading jazz musicians of his era.

And I knew that my cameras were still stashed in the trunk of my ’74 Subaru.

In my mind anyway, it was an image as evocative as an Alfred Stieglitz view of the Flatiron Building, with the industrial dwarfing the human.

That’s not to say any photo I might have taken might have gone mano a mano with Stieglitz’s famed photo. But the image did, and does, endure  in my mind.

That, I suppose, is why it finally emerged as a poem, written decades later (and anthologized in a wonderful collection of poems about the dual subjects of nature and music called Reeds and Rushes, edited by Kathleen Burgess and published by Pudding House).

Here’s what I saw that afternoon, and still see:

Paul Desmond’s Last Date

at Symphony Hall, Boston


So many have walked this wall

in just this way that their footfalls, too,

are beaten in sambas and rondos

into the hidden tempo of the street;

yours come down at stage door

in five-four paces,

encircling ghostly wisps of breath,

gathering again in a new confusion

of entrances and exits reedy melodies

drawn from a muscle memory of riffs

that how often have skitted

through those horns

in cool approximations of redemption.



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