This Is Our Music

(For Mr. Ornette Coleman)

We were dark chocolate
Streaming into a sea of
Heavy cream, when my
Militant mother brought
Busloads of us from her
Central Avenue Teen Post
To Wilshire Boulevard’s
Miracle Mile, to swim…
In Blues drenched Jazz and
Essentially Occupy Ornette

We were there ‘cause Watts
Exploded two years earlier—
Hummingbirds, hovering around
Your sound, siphoning nectar off
Iridescent notes, the hour audience
You granted us, the safe space for
Suppressing Hollywood Bowl
Memories from years before:
Cub Scouts, our gold kerchiefs, pressed
Dark blue uniforms; ‘white’ Cub Scouts
of mud balls,
dirt rocks and
sharp shouts,
“Go home, chocolate drops!”

Something was different about this night
Three men, hearts synced in telepathic
Language, locked passionately in
Anticipation of risk, traversing
Creative cliffs, making music—
Three men, two African, one European
Making sonic magic together
Teaching Teen Post kids harmolodic
Lessons: not all ‘white’ people were
‘Devils,’ cops, teachers, principals…

Moffett, drums; Izenzon, bass,
Roiling rhythms, swinging so hard
Dinosaur skeletons resonated
Sympathetically at Tar Pits nearby

You, the white suited saxophonist,
Visionary leader, Ornette Coleman,
Crying alto saxophone sounds, hot
Tar bubbling Black Blues, your edgy,
Squawking, screaming, holy ghost
Gospel, which, we kids also spoke…

Your licks leaping into our lithe,
Taut, brown bodies, ripping open scar
Tissue, teenage armor, coats of mail—
Your shamanic music, mesmerizing,
Hypnotizing, capturing 17, 16, 13-year-old
Nervous systems, transporting us to
Transcendental states, beyond ‘hoods on alpha
Brain waves, tuning out clear and present danger
Of ‘white’ folks, ‘loving’ Ornette, but hating Blues
Babies of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana steel, rubber,
Autoworkers, venturing from ghettoes,
Enriching themselves on great Black Music…

We the young, gifted and black, black and proud
Crowd knew nothing of your first Five Spot days
Of playing through haters, doubters, critics, the
Envious, the jealous, the less daring, the less
Courageous, the more fearful, the more cowardly,
The retrograde rear guard, as vicious as confederate
Crackers on Edmund Pettis Bridge…blocking…your
March into modernity

We knew nothing of you spoon-feeding them top hat,
Garnished with crow; nothing of you forcing them to
Take the bass out of their voices, changing their tunes

As a man, years later, I revisited L.A.’s County
Museum of Art and saw and studied the infamous
Degenerate Art Show, learning how Nazis secretly,
Clandestinely, dug Jazz in dark bunkers—despite
Sunlight pronouncements, condemning the
“Degenerate nigger-jew noise…” I laughed out loud,
Knowing they, rightfully, feared terrifying power of
Art, like great Black Music harnessed by you, on
Grounds hallowed by you, a summer night, years ago.

Former forklift driver/warehouse worker/janitor, Raymond Nat Turner is a NYC poet; BAR's Poet-in-Residence; and founder/co-leader of the jazz-poetry ensemble UpSurge!NYC. Read other articles by Raymond Nat, or visit Raymond Nat's website.