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In the World Series of Jazz
By Bruce Lader

The pitcher walks straight ahead to the mound,
taps his foot in front of the stand,
licks the reed a taste or two
looks in for a sign and
before breathing a sound
lets the rhythm grab him,
gets into a groove.

The monster in the lineup
points the club, ready to swing the charts
like Bechet, Prez, and Benny,
or hard bop the ball out of the park
like Bird, sensing vibes the hurler phrases
from his medley of instant surprises

but the dot blows by, a goose egg of smoke
burning the catcher's mitt,
and then a Kansas City slider
side-slips the plate, explodes runs of blues.

The joint of eighty thousand plus
jumps like grasshoppers in a field of butterflies,
logic laid out,
as the cat tempts a half-speed change,
a curve bridged above his wheelhouse
like a slow boat to China, but the batter,
cool as Monk, Gerry, and Chet,
doesn't chase the quote.

The players are off their benches
as the southpaw winds, spins loose
a dexterous swallow of joy, the agile
turnaround of a tune
to take us out.


BRUCE LADER is the founding director of Bridges Tutoring, Inc., a nonprofit organization educating students from diverse cultures. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in Poetry, New York Quarterly, MARGIE, Poet Lore, Roanoke Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Sojourn, Potomac Review, and many others.

© 2004 Bruce Lader


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