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Russell MacClaren poetry

THE BIRTH OF JAZZ (First published in Jerry Jazz Musician2013)

Syncopated sounds
mingle in bayous,
roll with Mississippi currents,
splash in Lake Pontchartrain.
The haunting melody
sleeps in pine forests,
seeps into cypress,
sways through
 willows,
stands with oaks.
Alternating tempos
swim on gator tails,
wade through delta inlets
on great blue heron legs,
slither with snakes,
splash among mullet.
Rhythm
s, free as tarpon,
soar with eagles,
wail
in the hurricane.

Centuries of French and Spanish
searched in vain
to capture the elusive sound.
Biding its own time, the song
would pound through lowlands
on throbbing native drums,
echo around cotton fields
in plaintive Negro lungs,
hide in marsh channels
near pirate coves,
dance in one room houseboats
on lively Cajun fiddles.

Conjured in voodoo hearts,
forged in wrought iron,
caught by steel-eyed fishermen,
sought in Storyville brothels,
French Quarter bars
and Dixieland dance halls,
a new sound was born.
The land and its people
cry the blues,
bring forth the miracle
of Jazz!

 

NATURE SPOKE TO ME TODAY (Published in the anthology: Discover Poetry in Your Own Backyard, Poets Alive-2016)

I heard the brook trip and sing
as it frolicked past rocks and roots,
chattered its way
to converse with Mother River…

A red rose stopped me
as I smelled her scent.
How is your nose today?”
she asked, her petals smiling.

Do not hurry,”said the crow.
Look here!”cried the killdeer.
The owl just sat and watched
and asked me, “Who are you?”

Deer froze near the path
as I stalked into their forest.
Catch me if you can!” the squirrel
cried and scampered ’round the tree.

The grass tickled my feet.
Wind whipped through my hair…
Bushes brushed my sides,
and rain washed my pain away.

I did not speak; I had no words.
The world sang to me,
and it was all that I could to
to look at her and listen!

 

ABOVE THE KUMQUAT TREE

come, friend Kumquat,
come squat upon my balcony,
share fruit and greenery with me,
and watch the end of day—
the dark that washes
colors, smells and sounds away
as persimmon night replaces
the unsky where we play

join with me
to dance and sing
as Orion falls
and Leo calls on gentle Spring
before Summer’s rising Scorpio
burns down with feverish sting

 

SNIPER FIRE (First published in Russell’s chapbook: The Night the Sappers Came, by Mount Olive College Press-2005)

In winter, 1969, Reed and I
followed garish figures
through our starlight scopes
as they came from the mountains
to meet with wives and girlfriends.

The VC huddled
’round thatched huts
for a midnight meal,
rifles close at hand.
We chose targets. Fired.
Bodies fell. Women cried.
Men scattered in the chaos.
Then, like demons out of Hades
we vanished into darkness.

Tonight I barbecue
in my back yard
with friends
and feel cross hairs,
trained on me!

 

HARD LUCK CAFÉ (First published in Award Winning Poems, North Carolina Poetry Society-1995, later used as title poem for the book HARD LUCK CAFÉ-2009)

I visited old shanty town
to see how folks lived there
and found a little place in need
of paint and much repair.

No sign hung from the old screen door,
suspended by one hinge.
I passed the old ramshackle hut,
then felt a guilty twinge.

And when I turned to enter,
I heard the waiter say:
Welcome, stranger, join with us
here at Hard Luck Café.

My hunger newly risen,
the sun shown at my back
and hung on the horizon
as I walked in the shack.

I ordered eggs and bacon
and smiled at my host.
He shook his head and answered,
How about some toast?”

That sounds too hard and dry,” I said.
But sweet rolls are okay.”
He grinned at me and gave a wink.
It’s only toast today!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Russell MacClaren is a Writer and Poet.
You can reach him at his Facebook page

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Published inPoetry

9 Comments

  1. What an eclectic collection of poetry! These show that the author has a brilliant, open mind…. Each one is so expressive and complete. I can ‘feel’ myself in the area of the Mississippi, it’s sights, sounds and scents and vibration. I can feel the anguish suffered in Vietnam. ‘Above Kumquat Tree’ is eloquent in conjuring the scents of night mixed with ripe fruit, the eternal draw of the night sky. As for ‘Hard Luck Cafe’ I immediately remembered a tiny cafe (?!) in the middle of no where, where I stopped for a welcome break, to find the menu sparse – but the welcome warm!
    Well done Russell – you have a vivid, well educated mind and a wonderful way of putting these feelings into words.

  2. Gail A Arrington Gail A Arrington

    What a wonderful collection of poems, Russell. I see and hear all of the sounds from the first poem THE BIRTH OF JAZZ, and feel like I am right there when Jazz was born. The second poem NATURE SPOKE TO ME TODAY, made me smile because I can see all the animals and how lively nature is every day. ABOVE THE KUMQUAT TREE, I can smell the scents of the night and the ripe fruit from the tree. The SNIPER FIRE made me feel and see how much pain war causes. The HARD LUCK CAFÉ reminded me of a cafe in Vermont that made you feel welcome and you knew that the food would be great.
    All of these poems are great, and I love them all. I agree with Judy job well done Russell.

  3. D'Wanna D'Wanna

    Richly evocative, moving word pictures, wonderful spoken/read aloud!

  4. Nathalie Lullier Nathalie Lullier

    Each of them transport you. My favorite The Birth of Jazz as I am just “visiting” New Orleans since 2012. I am sure when I will be back to my country of birth (soon), reading this poem will put me back right where I am now. C’est formidable.

  5. Russell MacClaren Russell MacClaren

    I’m pleased you all enjoyed my poetry and honored that you cared enough to comment. This site is full of excellent prose and poetry. I’m grateful to have been published here.

  6. Gary Crosby Gary Crosby

    Great verse and quite compelling

  7. Eve Brouwer Eve Brouwer

    This collection is excellent. Eclectic and exciting.
    One of my favorite lines:
    “the dark that washes
    colors, smells and sounds away”
    MacClaren’s words speak gently of nature, of trees and flowers and sunlight; but the emotion threaded from one poem to the next gives us another perspective. Sun brings shadows, jazz buzzes through the trees, and, finally, in his own back yard, the feeling of the snipers’ guns trained on him.

  8. Alicia Cognevich Alicia Cognevich

    You are quite the poet. The imagery throughout your work is evocative of a deep love for the world around you, and your rhythm is quintessentially Southern. Real, simple, passionate, and unpretentious.

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