John Stupp

New Rhumba

He said
a sideman looks for love
anywhere he can find it
a cottonmouth
looks for turtles and frogs
in a swamp
it seemed
an odd analogy
we were in Ambridge
New Rhumba
the Gil Evans arrangement
from Miles Ahead
he played upright bass
and was much older
a big man
he leaned over
fingers working strings
like a sailor climbing ropes
at ease
like a cottonmouth
his diet included mammals
birds fish turtles
he grinned
this is nothing
I could be in the woods somewhere
in a pile of leaves
and you wouldn’t see me


Relaxing at Camarillo

for JA

In a far recess of summer
monks are playing soccer—
not marbles not tag not keep away
these monks are playing soccer
these monks are not relaxing at Camarillo
they are not watching the moon rise like a blue medal
over the Santa Monica mountains
over sycamores and sage
these monks are not watching plaster walls and dirty sinks
near the broken Pacific
where Bird relaxed
after setting his bed on fire
and running through an LA hotel lobby naked
his drunken cock swinging side to side
like a saxophone without pants
July 29, 1946—
until the police rolled him in a rug
his arms tied off like a bruised seedling
waiting for the rain to fall
and bloom
like a California lily
like a seaside daisy
like honeysuckle
as the needle drops—
and his solo starts
like a crutch tapping cobbles
in a marketplace
the air warm
and blinking
as the sun comes up
it doesn’t matter
he said—
if you see it right


West Village Afternoon January 1974

I was
in and out
of record stores
dodging traffic
delivery trucks
Christmas trees
thrown out
like old girlfriends
light cords
still wrapped
around last year
as if to say
you’ll have trouble
getting by
without me
and garbage
piled to remember—
on 7th Avenue
the Vanguard
door was
open in the sun
the sound
of Mingus
and his band
drifted out
the notes
big as a man’s arm
like rats
snapping their tails
on the stone walk


John StuppJohn Stupp is the author of the 2007 chapbook The Blue Pacific and the 2015 full-length collection Advice from the Bed of a Friend both by Main Street Rag. Recent poetry has appeared or will be appearing in Drunk Monkeys, Cactus Heart, Vending Machine Press, Icarus Down, Weirderary, Wordrunner eChapbooks, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and on the radio show Prosody. He lives in Sewickley, Pennsylvania.