Mingus at the Showplace by William Mathews

I was miserable, of course for a I was seventeen,

And so I swung into action and wrote a poem

And it was miserable for that was how I


Poetry worked: you digested experience

And shat

Literature. It was 1960 at the Showplace long


Defunct, on West 4th., and I sat at the bar,

Casting beer money from a thin reel of ones,

The kid in the city, big ears like a puppy

And I knew Mingus was a genius. I knew two

Other things, but they were wrong as it happened

So I made him look at the poem

“There’s a lot of that going around, ” he said

And Sweet Baby Jesus he was right. He laughed

Amiably. He didn’t look as if he thought

Bad poems were dangerous ,the way some

Poets do.

If they were baseball executives they’d plot

To destroy sandlots everywhere

So that the same could

Be saved from children later

That night he fired the pianist in mid-number

And then flurried him from the stand.

“We’ve suffers a diminuedo in personal, ”

He explained ,and the band played on.


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