A-Sides: Six Poems after Bill Evans by Mark Lamoureux

Re: Person I Knew
for Chris McCreary

Chasm crier cry
all day long outside
the jewelry store. 
Hand models with skull
rings pluck heart strings
stretched taut by two poles
with drawn-on lightning bolts.

Ears’ chic cry Mr.
Knowalittlebit about
a thing called lovelorn
nostalgia for an old-school
’s out for summer; get your white
chocolate skull crushed by Korybantes
at low noon, beside the bladed gills of the air conditioner.

Cream’s rich cry
in coffee strong & black. 
A banshee lost it outside
the Dolphin Tavern. Charon’s bedside
manner leaves something to be desired but someone said
that’s what beds were for in the olden days. Stop. Do not pass Go-Bots

on the right for fear of fear itself, the fretwork
of the stuck-out neck of the walking bass
o profundo voiceover that says it is now safe
to rip out the seats for change
& wadded-up ambivalence notes; the times they are a


Diagonal rain shakes the carnival
on the last day of summer. Drops whoosh
among the polestars of the midway. A spoke
of the Ferris Wheel buzzes staccato
lit & dark. The ticket seller files her stiletto
nails. Gulls & pigeons eye the empty
sausage carts; stray cats curl like commas
under the empty bellies
of semis out back where the carnies
go to smoke dope.

The knife thrower tosses back
Bacardi to still his shaking hands, polishes
side-eyed blades in skunky red
velvet. His blue curacao eyes blur a little & he sees
a smoky angel flit across the dagger piano
on his lap. He thinks
of the unopened letter haloed by brown & red
bottle-bottom ghosts.

The fortune teller draws the 8
of Cups; her lover’s gone
away. Zigzag
lighting tarantellas with votive flames.
What I desired now I see;
she rests her chin on a hand that holds
a cigarette. Pall Mall swirls among
the silver thread of St. Agnes.
The downpour weeps
out on the reservoir.

The strongman’s head explodes
with yellow rage. Dead-lifting
dreams & misdemeanors.
There are words
on his neck & his eyes
but he broke all the mirrors
& lets out a gust of fire.
His tiny dog yips
at his ankles & chases a cockroach
off an ancient radio.

Rain beats on the Tilt-a-Whirl
& the Ferris spoke goes out for good.
A gray-winged tornado tears apart
stale hamburger buns tossed out the window
of the concession stand where the fortune teller
has braved the rain to rummage
for black tea but the ticket lady’s drunk
it all.

NYC’s No Lark

Train comes                                        romances it
out of                                                                                                   the sheets of
the dark                                                                                               rain
white rats flee                                     weather itself                          down
                                                            the stairs where
newspapers dance                                                                              a cracked
in gyresneon sign

NYC is never more                                                                              on Carmine St.
                                                                                                           Mercer neon’s
in the summer                                                                                    in the rain
                                                            hear in Tin
dark eyes                                             Pan Alley                                on the tables
turn                                                                                                    of the cafés
                                                            the corner                              of the past

& fade into
another life;                                        

read                                                     keys
what’s lost                                                                                         was beautiful
                                    This is the part where the jingle                                                         
                                    of the Mister Softee truck comes to redeem

Ski-ball tickets                                    black skies                                                      
at Coney Island                                   tilt                                          you

Know What I Mean?

Like when marshmallows burn
on the points of pikes
& you’ve got shirts older than the time
you’ve got left—
you weep at the sight
of Ernest Borgnine;
a glass coffee cup
is inauspicious.

When you can’t
iron the wrinkles out
of a kite that hung above
the gray beach of everything
you never did or said.

Maybe there’s still time
to learn magic tricks or
drop wicks into candles
shaped like the space left
when your last hope is bereft.

Like when they string a badminton net
across your biography
& lose track of which robots are good
& which ones are evil.

Walking Up

Walking up the stairs
of the ziggurat
flanked by violet shadows
of soap bubbles—

the black jackrabbit
cuts the cards:
kings of hearts
for some, spades & deuces
& hummingbird wings for others, spidersilk
veils for the queen
of the amaranth.

Boundless existence as trees’ perception of time; not seen but felt
a cell at a time—senseless—but sound can be felt as vibrations
& light, a chemical reaction or pain, which is universal. Negation is
the most powerful force; music is a momentary disruption
of the symmetry of silence. Life is chaos & chaos is life,
stepping in time with its own negation.

Walking up under the
clouds in movies, immortal
as the sky seen as blue
in the stream that flows over
the steps, digging
a groove in the monolith
of human existence, seen
as events in time, seen
as music.

Turn Out the Stars

Turn out the stars
like the carnival lights in September.
This is the part of the twinkle
where everything goes dark;
that constellation
the man I used to be.
Our hair grows longer
but the song remains the same.

Turn out the moon
& make it all new.
A comet points down
where to lay your troubles;
lay down in gray oceans
while the living seas
swallow desert islands
& beachheads.

Dim the sun
but keep the shades;
dilate the eye
that is sore from
weeping. Tiny veins pulse
with the low end; let this be the end
of hurt.

It’s not so much that the moon is new, but rather
that it is unlit. It’s the same moon, in the absence
of light. The way a thing is still there
when you don’t think about it. Only stars die
& then, they’re doorways
that nobody can use.

Turn out the stars
on a velvet shroud: finger them
like nonpareils
in the suffering wind.

Mini-interview with Mark Lamoureux

HFR: Can you share a moment that has shaped you as a writer (or continues to)?

ML: One thing that definitely shaped me as a writer is reading Ange Mlinko’s Matinees from the now defunct Zoland Books around the turn of the century. It was the first time I had encountered a writer who employed somewhat elevated diction in a way that still felt somehow “accessible,” sort of like New York School poems mixed with High Modernism—a mixture of the raw & the cooked & the universal & the obscure. It’s a mode that really captivates me and probably the mode I’ve written in for most of my career.

HFR: What are you reading?

ML: I’m going to be brutally honest in this response because I think it may benefit other writers. I have ADD, so I am always reading a whole bunch of things for short amounts of time. It takes me a long time to get through a book. We have this idea that poets are autodidacts who read a hundred books a year and, indeed, reading is important to the writing process, but I value quality over quantity. I’m a poet because I like to work on the level of the word, so therefore my experience of words is very intimate. It takes a long time to get through a book.

Right now, I’m reading a lot of different translations of François Villon, some of them for the second or third time. I love Villon—he’s like the New York School of Medieval Paris. Some of it is incomprehensible due to all the local references and in-jokes, but one can still receive an impression. Some of the books have very good notes, which is helpful.

I’ve also been reading Alan Moore’s Jerusalem and Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast Trilogy, which I will probably finish sometime in the next five to ten years.

I also read a lot of comic books, and right now I am making may way through Marvel’s Bronze Age Moon Knight.

HFR: Can you tell us what prompted six poems after Bill Evans?

ML: Music is extremely important to me—perhaps because I am such a slow reader. I experience music in almost the same way I do the written word and it results in a kind of synesthesia. I can’t help but to experience music as words and vice versa. I write about music of various genres a lot.

Evans is a figure who I relate to in a lot of ways, both in terms of personal stuff and in terms of aesthetics. His pieces are often quite tranquil but with an underlying current of pathos. Evans was an artist who did not directly address his loves, demons, and fetishes directly, but they’re always there swimming below the surface of what often gets dismissed as “piano jazz.” Evans’ demons and his loves were formidable, and I feel like my work has a lot in common with Evans’. Evans was a particularly literary jazz artist—his jacket copy and the jacket copy he writes for others, such as his seminal liner notes about Kind of Blue, are exceptional. He was also friends with a number of poets such as Bill Zavatsky, who appears frequently in the documentary about Evans’ life, Time Remembered. The liner notes for Evans record with Jim Hall, Undercurrent, has these amazing liner notes by an enigmatic writer named Barry J. Titus, so clearly Evans was interested in the written word even though he didn’t employ it that much in his compositions. I tracked down a novel, Masks, by Titus that was very bizarre. As far as I know he never published anything else besides the liner notes and that book. There’s also a lot to work with the titles also, given Evans’ penchant for anagrams, self-reflexivity, and his dry humor. The “Re: Person I Knew” is an anagram of Evans’ good friend Orrin Keepnews’ name, and in the poem, I likewise work with anagrams of my good friend Chris McCreary’s name. “NYC’s No Lark” is also an anagram for Sonny Clark.

He was a complicated man, and his work is likewise complicated; I guess I’m drawn to that complexity, too, even though my musical vocabulary is very limited. I read a book The Big Love, that Evans’ last girlfriend, Laurie Verchomin, wrote about him, and it was just fascinating and really cemented my interest in and empathy for him. She was an interesting figure in his life. Many of the biographies of him are fairly dry and technical, written by and for jazz beardos, but the Verchomin book is engaging and accessible. I encourage anyone interested in Evans to take a look at it.

HFR: What’s next? What are you working on?

ML: I often work on big projects, but right now it’s just discrete poems. I was going to write a poem for all of Evans’ own compositions, but it feels to me like the project has come to its organic end. This is the first time in a while that I am not working on any project in particular.

HFR: Take the floor. Be political. Be fanatical. Be anything. What do you want to share?

ML: I guess I’d just like to take a moment to speak to younger writers who, like me, suffer from depression. There were times when I felt like I had nothing more to say—that all my poems were about my depression and that these poems weren’t useful to anyone in any way. However, even dark poems speak to their audience and help them to feel seen. Sometimes the only glimmer of hope is that others, too, feel utterly devoid of hope—that we are together in the darkness. I think there’s a stigma about work that’s too drastic or too negative, but all voices are important. The work that moves me the most is work that speaks to my inner landscape which, much of the time, is ruled by depression. Writing allows us to survive, to cope, with extreme circumstances, and neurodivergent conditions can be extreme. Just write. Let writing be a practice—don’t worry about publishing, fitting in to a certain scene, or what other people say. Two of the most important things in my life are poetry and yoga and there are a lot of similarities between the two—they are both practices that are forever unfolding and they are both spaces that I hold largely for myself alone. Just practice—do your work—don’t worry about the results and don’t worry if you feel like what you’re doing is “good” enough. It is. Every benchmark is an illusion.

Mark Lamoureux lives and practices yoga in New Haven, Connecticut, and teaches English at Housatonic Community College. He is the author of six volumes of poetry. His work has appeared in FENCEspoKeYes PoetryPing Pong, and other publications.

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