Michael Vander Does

Michael Vander Does is a jazz-poet and a video technology expert. He has been performing with The Jazz Poetry Ensemble for 25 years. The JPE was formed on the recommendation of Allen Ginsberg, who told Michael to combine his poetry and trombone playing.

Michael is the recipient of an Ohio Arts Council grant for individual artists and a Puffin Foundation grant. He has been published in several magazines including The Croton Review and Negative Capability. In conjunction with co-founder of the JPE, Michael Sisson, he published their book Inca Blues: Poems and Translations from the Jazz Poetry Ensemble. He was the founder of the Poetry in the Park program for the Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks. At 59, he is still an avid basketball player.


                                                                           Where you gonna be when the fug come down,
                                                                           Dancing in the dark or getting out of town?
                                                                           What you gonna do when the matter breaks down,
                                                                           Exploring that place where a verb becomes a noun?


I garden without gloves.                                            
When I pull weeds,
thistles warn me how deep
and strong the root, how much
tool I need, leave me reminders
like the trowel tells me when
to stop with a blister torn
on my palm and then marks my
refusal for weeks: a lesson
like the thirty-two-year-old smear
of graphite born inside my elbow
when Todd and I learned the danger.


Somehow there has not been time to mourn.

                                    Crying comes snatched
between the doing and the done

                                                in the traffic jam

                                                sorting laundry.

                        There is no Poetry in the Yellow Pages,
                        not in Las Vegas, not anywhere I’ve been
                        and down in the casino the sound of money
                        the cha–ching of payoff a siren song
                        anchored by the clink clink clink of dreams
                        without hope. 
                        I think you would be more charitable than I,
                        but nobody here seems to know your name.

I have riven derelict
dialect risen
nothing to share but me
and my good cheer
Wondering how to be
understood how to know
when the simplest
rhyme walks the finest
Distracted by the mechanics
of living
between vibrating perfection
and crazed multiplicity.                                                         


Today music comes a flashing saucer
of accuracy, but remember the dark mystic depth
of graven plastic imbued with magic
singing caught in embraceable malleability
releasable released unseen ringing penetration
hard as sapphire hard as diamond down
the acoustic alley every captured moment
with its dearest farthest path marked
by a circumstantial architecture.

This is how I first heard your voice.
                                                                        Tell me, Allen,
when did they change the righteous anger of the dispossessed
into the misplaced expression of discontent?
Was it in 1967
                                    or ‘72?
                                                            Was it 1980 or 1992?
            I have seen the flying wheelbarrow of fate
tumbling through the air toward my windshield.
Absurd hope springs from our loins
nurtured by equally absurd belief
to inevitably flawed reality
and sometimes the lucky live,
                        for a while,
our voices our silences balanced
between ability and arrogance like our visions
our fears sometimes too close.
I’m thinking about Betty Shabazz and Geronimo
Pratt and I almost break
with the war and the killings and the riots rushing back, the waste
of compassion and courage, even the days
I don’t remember of HUAC and your youth.
It’s the sound of one hand laughing,
            the voice behind your head.
Gentle Prophet riddling equally
the roofer spitting nails piano mover earning piles
gun runner with nerves tucked carefully in the fenders.
Gay Hipster whose shy smile reassures
the electrician and his wire-worn teeth nurse
who must usher us over the trembling hands
and the wistful lip of the boxer whose shadow
we have wagered uncountable tImes.
                        Poet of subtle curiosities
celebrating exploding pistils and anthers
of humming cunt and singing cock, Yes Master,
you have answers where distinctions end
in wetness and joy and ecstatic cries

jazzman of the verb litany of the body with its trail of failing parts the verbs slowly
give out to knee to eye to liver to pancreas to heart the beating heart the breathing
lung to be the least sighing beat to prostate to prostrate to ear the humming the
singing to soul to spirit each loss till to wave is the last lingering fingering to linger
waving wavering in the lingering pain to tongue to lip the hum up and down the
frailty of the spine to finger the waves of pain and pleasure till the last failure of
verb to imagine when imagination has nothing left to memory no remembrances to
feel no sweet round tingling balls no swollen shimmering clit to semen to smegma
no come no dreams of coming to nipple no lost hope of touch no ultimate kiss to nose
the avocado coffee smell of sex In no more improvisation and Out not even loneliness
is left to chest a lonely rhythm within the beat a flaccid crowd with no encores left
in them heading quickly back to the gaming for one more chance at the big score
the money the car the girl all chiming a call of missed revelation already forgotten
in the glowing flashing night of continuing to verb to reverb to stick to mallet to
brush the sweet drum of life your exhortation


Half man, Half bear, Half alligator, nowhere but this wild America would be big
enough for you and your legend of Tripster Road Warrior Rapper, lover of beatiful
young men and their beat beating beatiful bodies waiting in lamps  — wait — high
enough to see their chest curled hair, dope smoking Reagan outlaw, Shaman
Levitator of the Pentagon, Nixon Enemy of the State not the people, humbomming
with Elvin, reboppin’ with Jack, riffing with Neal, writing the history of the road as
the roads were built. There were times when this buddha rose smiling in the sky
taller than Paul Bunyan wilder than Pecos Bill ornerier than Mike Fink Buddha
Rose my Buddha Rose
We sit

            and wait

                        and life changes.

   We do not meet.

                        We do not speak

                like a commercial

                            like art

                                    like tv
(everybody loves television)

                           Scenarios are entered,
                            played out.
                                          Percentages are weighed.
                The odds are waived out
                                                packet by packet,
                                    bit by powdered bit.
                            The babies balance
                            always balanced
                                                  blonde on blonde
                                                               reel by real
                                    not reaching not no not never not                  

                        in America not in japan stillness so profound
                        it draws attention like the last stillness too

                        quiet I need to be there triangulated by beauty
                        and being you across the room like a split

                        photon knowing as I blink or wink reverie
                        waving roots new raving matchflash ginvision

                        pixellating pixellatio like storms from the west
                        what is it you want to tolerate what is it

                        you want to sweep temperament or technology
                        where does the shoulder strap and the garter

                        thumbs in the belt the spandex pants how do I
                        keep from falling down how do I fly the art

                        of the yawn tool against death I will fuck you
                        and fuck you with my fingers and tongue knee

                        and nose and when I have gone limp with life
                        and trying and living I will draw my self out

                        for you like a Valkyrie a Houri a Suffragette


I do wear gloves
when I pull poison ivy:
not cotton garden gloves,
a big bright dangerous chemical green
hazardous handling set of gloves I quarantine for weeks.
Long sleeves long pants heavy socks old shoes and still its patterned leaves
etch my closing eyes days after, notched moebiously
in spiral sheets of fear.
It’s Sunday
            in a Christian Country
                        and there’s no Profit to be made.

You’re in the hall with Janis and Jimi.
            The young people touch the Pearl red hem
                        in quasi-religious worship.
                                    They do not know the List of Sacred Duties,
                                                the Lost Souls of Desire
                                                            we needed like
                                                                        we needed you like
                                                                                    we needed the Pablos like
                                                                                                archived moments nearlined
                                                                                                            over years on salty call past
leaves of beautiful young men
            under vietnamn parking lot mercury
                        football floating in green summer
                                    safety off like the blind self trying
                                                to learn without blowing up stay
                                                                        with me stay
                                                                                                with me.

I believe no sound ever dies:                         
            that Coltrane’s skirling brilliance

                                                                                                            bouncing off

the bar-room mirrors of Detroit                     
                                                                                                            the barred plate windows of lower                                                                                                     east side pawnshops

                        the control room glass at Englewood

                                                                                    the spotlight speculared bell of Miles’s trumpet



                        Monk’s ebonied brilliances
till insinuates itself even between the leaves
            of grass of Bennington and the bougainvillea of Barbados;

            that Billie’s voice
            ripped and sliding
            off the edge of the stage
            Spreads sinuously through the night
            wrapping your soul in gardenia garlands
            Seeks its own level cresting hopes and canceled dreamers
            wandering in search off
into the bellies of lovers                                             
singing the genital surety of touching                                    
            knees rounded Over breasting Tones of desire                                                          
the way many kinds of lips meet in ever more modulating                                       
ecstasy Lady’s voice feeding through vagina throat
                        bends of Day
                        and life Off the needle’s tip
                                                                                    beads of sound spray
                                                                                    like a misplaced stream of urine
                                                                                    into pusher’s pockets sapphire bits
                                                                                    of pain wandering forever past the forbidden                                                                                    doors of Birdland;

            that the Miles/Jimi jams of legend sing from the 8th Street Ladyland
                        basement across the years to Robert   Johnson and John McLaughlin           to the electric dreams of Bach the electric signs of deaf-mute      dreamers who feel the fire vibrating in their bones the burning sighs            rippled and stippled in a                             savage dance of sound like hurricane rain
            on the indistinct
border of ocean and breath the unknown wail
            of once and future                  wings beats with the sound of centuries the agave
            aquamarines of struggle and shakes and staggering;
            Mingus and Mitchell
                        our love takes many forms battered
            in harmonics of loyalties signaled
                                    in multiplexity of fates
            each shining through the Mingus pimpness bird thief of darkness
rumbling                      over our weaknesses
            our dangers                            
                                                our risks
                        as pain like Pink
                                    raises the Noise floor
            till you can no longer hear yourself and you
                                    let go,

but refracted by the unknown laws
            of space where sound vibrates
                        even through the vacuum
                                    even through the void
                                                each of us leaves
                                                            your voice still
                                                                        across the Olentangy
                                                                                    your absence rings
                                                                                                like a resonant cavity still

Standing like a Wave




Copyright © 2010 Michael Vander Does