Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Two from school


so many paintings
Two Fingers
The Lovers
Frieda and Diego Rivera
what you'd expect

but what catches my eye?
the two black
and white photographs
of crepuscular rays
and clouds
both titled

how do docents
end the trip
for my students?
staring at a flag
with green and black
stripes with black stars
on an orange field
then looking at
a whiteboard

* * *

Jazz Talk

   Wealth and fame
   he's ignored
   Action is his reward

the thrumming of those four strings
walking that bass line
under four-color animated lyrics

thank goodness it wasn't
the Simpsons theme
it was time for another
song to take its place

   Happy talk, keep talkin' happy talk,
   Talk about things you'd like to do.

eleven octaves on the electric keyboard
the melody in the right hand
but not held - palm turned down
as ephemeral as sound
as short as memory

it's a good thing students
don't have a sustain pedal
I'd never have any quiet

   All aboard, get on the "A" train
   Soon you will be on Sugar Hill in Harlem

Billy wrote this one
on his way to see Duke
but it was Joya who penned the lyrics

Everybody should know Duke's music

   Potato, potahto,
   Tomato, tomahto

not just listening to the vocalist
but us singing too - call and response

gives new meaning to auditorium

   Seven steps to heaven

riding that rhythm
and brushes on the snare drum

that's one of the sounds
that makes me love jazz

   It don't mean a thing,
   If it ain't got that swing


* * * * *

The first poem was written in response to the prompt from We Write Poems to write a yin/yang poem based on any kind of pairings that are complementary.

It was inspired by a field trip to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. We're participating in a program called Visual Thinking Strategies, and a field trip to a museum to use those thinking strategies with actual art pieces, as opposed to reproductions in the classroom, is part of the program. While my class was split into small groups, led by docents, I was free for an hour to walk around the museum on my own. It was heavenly.

The second poem was not written to any prompt. The San Francisco Symphony has a program called Adventures in Music. It includes a trip to Davies Symphony Hall, which we've already done, but also visits to our school by professional musicians. This poem was my attempt to capture the magic of live music as performed by the quartet that called itself Jazz Talk.

These two poems seemed to go together, as they were inspired by art and music, were made possible by the experiences I have as a teacher, and were my attempts to reflect in poetry that art and music (and maybe a little teaching snuck in there too).


  1. Two excellent poems, Mr. Walker. I think your students are fortunate to have you as teacher.

    In the first poem: I'd like to see the photographs titled "Equivalent." The ending of the field trip for your students makes me wonder what was so special about the flag and the white board.

    In the second poem, you have definitely captured the rhythm, and I enjoyed your teaching!

  2. I concur both excellent pieces, Mr. Walker. I enjoyed your backstory as well. I've never visited your city, but my husband tells me it's wonderful.


  3. Mary, thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comments.

    If you stare at a flag colored that way for about twenty seconds and then stare at a whiteboard, you see the regular-colored American flag. Your brain processes the complementary colors and you see an after-image that looks like the flag we're used to.

    I wish you'd explain to my students how fortunate they are. (Okay, some of them understand).

    Pamela, thank you. I'm glad you liked them. San Francisco is a wonderful city; I enjoy living in the Bay Area.