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Callaloo 25.1 (2002) 122-123
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Bagel Shop Jazz
Shadow people, projected on coffee-shop walls
Memory formed echoes of a generation past
Beating into now.
Nightfall creatures, eating each other
Over a noisy cup of coffee.
Mulberry-eyed girls in black stockings
Smelling vaguely of mint jelly and last night's bongo drummer,
Making profound remarks on the shapes of navels,
Wondering how the short Sunset week
Became the long Grant Avenue night,
Love tinted, beat angels,
Doomed to see their coffee dreams
Crushed on the floors of time,
As they fling their arrow legs
To the heavens,
Losing their doubts in the beat.
Turtle-neck angel guys, black-haired dungaree guys,
Caesar-jawed, with synagogue eyes,
World travelers on the forty-one bus,
Mixing jazz with paint talk,
High rent, Bartok, classical murders,
The pot shortage and last night's bust.
Lost in a dream world,
Where time is told with a beat.
Coffee-faced Ivy Leaguers, in Cambridge jackets,
Whose personal Harvard was a Fillmore district step,
Weighted down with conga drums,
The ancestral cross, the Othello-laden curse,
Talking of Diz and Bird and Miles, [End Page 122]
The secret terrible hurts,
Wrapped in cool hipster smiles,
Telling themselves, under the talk,
This shot must be the end,
Hoping the beat is really the truth.
The guilty police arrive.
Brief, beautiful shadows, burned on walls of night.
From Solitudes Crowded with Loneliness, copyright © 1965 by Bob Kaufman. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
Bob Kaufman (1925-1986) was a poet primarily associated with the Beat literary movement in San Francisco. His volumes include Solitudes Crowded with Loneliness, Golden Sardine, and The Ancient Rain.