Monday 18 April 2022

One Poem by Antonia Alexandra Klimenko


That Cat Named Bird  


                           Charlie “Bird“ Parker, jazz legend, 1920-1955  


He could have squeezed the living daylights out of Hell  

And so he did   And at his very leisure  

His euphoric appetite for bright pain and dulled pleasures–  

hip-hopping  be-bopping  jammin’  slammin’  

pumping iron and ironic in metaphoric basements  

where swinging trumpets blow– was legendary  

His valves  those brass knuckles of brute sound  

opened like delicate testicles (ah…the swell of it)  

under the pressure of his well-manicured hand     

Sometimes out of hand   But  then  that was Birdland  


He lived for…Oh, what he’d give for:  

whole notes suspended from jazz-stained ceilings  

ripping  renting  warbling  squealing   A yardbird  

desperate to fill the uncompromising space  

His face   a black hole  where stars exploding  

collapsed into fusion  replaced  glass windows 

shattered like melting mirrors from the Ice Age  

Nineteen was a nice age   The kid had class  

His Cherokee in B flat—pure synergy—  

(unsurpassed) peeled poems off of every wall   

drove a silk fist  with a twist through blood knowledge   

stripped down to the quick    Once he heard the call…  


no one could keep that horn in its cage 


Dawn and neon merging together echoed   

his interpolations   Muted shades of strobing rhythms--  

he was a language of collisions--a free fall  

of featherless wings   Icarus caught in the wailing gale   

the chromatic scale of stark illusion  penetrating confusion  

soft callused lips cut from the equinox of  tonal  

depth and fragile power    The cryptic   

and unspoken lodged in his bill--a shuttered   

windowsill opening into a symphony  an epiphany  

a sunflower smiling wide in the ache of his throat  

The dark chords of his vocabulary—stuttering nocturnal–  

perched  now   in treetops   pronouncing his return  


Melodies rose up through rampant leaves of  invention                 

Green summer ferns  potted plants  rotted plants   

April in Paris  Bird Gets the Worm  Ornithology (no apologies)  

Thirty-four years of unearthly episodic breakups   breakdowns  

a narcotic intervention gave him pause   but no rest  

Melodies rose up through visions of greatness   

sketches of  Miles  Monk and Dizzy  

burnt bulbs eclipsing  distant strains mixing chaotic  

in fresh saxophonic, kaleidoscopic dimension  


Pneumonia in half breaths  a heartfelt diminuendo  

What was he thinking?  This is it  maybe  

This is the moment   this is the tone  

this is the one sound I can really bring home  

No more hot-lining liner notes for the final crescendo  

Play me the sudden death of midnights  Baby!   

Play me the jazz-beaked Bird   that old deaf fool  

Play me that one impossible screech of a cosmic sage  

Blue on ebony    arpeggio of dreaming  


No one could keep that horn in its cage!  


And in one hush of morning   Destiny brushed  

his dry parting lips  his unfettered hips  

the suicidal longing of his cold wet drool  

The wick of his short flame lit an interval higher  

in a sky of blazing burnout—his fame gone cool  

That formless ghost of his haunting moan–  

his feathers clipped   nothing lost   nothing wanting  

His music out the window   his notes off the page  


no one could keep that bird in his cage!  


Antonia Alexandra Klimenko was first introduced on the BBC and to the literary world by the legendary James Meary Tambimuttu of Poetry London–-publisher of T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Henry Miller and Bob Dylan, to name a few.  his death, it was his friend, the late great Kathleen Raine, who took an interest in her writing and encouraged her to publish.

A nominee for the Pushcart Prize and a former San Francisco Poetry Slam Champion, she is widely published. Her work has appeared in (among others) XXI Century World Literature (which she represents France) and Maintenant : Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing and Art archived at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

She is the recipient of two grants: one from Poets in Need, of which Michael (100 Thousand Poets for Change) Rothenberg is a co-founder; the second—the 2018 Generosity Award bestowed on her by Kathleen Spivack and Joseph Murray for her outstanding service to international writers through SpokenWord Paris where she is Writer/ Poet in Residence.

Her collected poems On the Way to Invisible is forthcoming in 2022.


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