Dave Brubeck:  Indian SummerLondon Flat, London Sharp
Poem by Gerald Locklin

I picked up Dave Brubeck’s latest CD
For two reasons:  Because it’s Brubeck
And because it’s Indian Summer.
He’s 20 years older than I am,
And I came to him, as my generation did,
Via Time Out, fifty years ago.
I’m still playing it, of course;
We all are.
And I’m not sure if I’m in
My Indian Summer or The Winter of my Discontent.
Or Discombobulation.
Dave is aging much more gracefully
And gradually than I am.  He has a less complicated
Existence, perhaps:  more focused on
His music and one woman.
Somehow the fingers of the great pianists
Seem never to get stiff.  I guess there’s a lot
Of truth to “Use it or Lose it.”  I use mine
For writing poems longhand, cupping water
In the YMCA pool, and carrying in those
Plastic bagfuls of groceries.  And frankly,
They hurt like hell.
He’s done the same with his brain,
Still writing  works as different yet pleasing
As the title tune of London Flat, London Sharp,
With the chromatic flats in the descending left hand
And the chromatic sharps (in the other direction: Up)
In the left;   whereas on the new CD we get,
On “So Lonely,” first an eleven-tone row,
And later the full twelve.
This was the same principle
That made Time Out and Miles’ Kind of Blue
Such perennial successes:
Immediately Accessible Innovation.
Sounds simple?
Try to achieve it yourself.
A year ago he wowed me
At a packed Cerritos Center.
Would have “knocked my socks off,”
If they were not compression hose.
Just about killed his only slightly younger sidemen,
Trying to keep up with him,
Trying to figure out what the devil
He was up to.
Tonight he’ll be playing to a sold-out
Hollywood Bowl.  I’m too old to even want
To drive there, deal with the parking,
Climb the concrete stairs to the cheap seats,
Let alone perform there!
He is an inspiration to me, to us all.
I’ll never last as long as he has,
But I’ll do my best to pack all that I can
Into what years Darwin or the Deity
Have set aside for me.
And maybe that will prove to be
The Zen of it:  that you’re too busy
Doing what you’ve always done
To count the passing years.
And thus the Autumn in L.A.
Turns into one long Indian Summer,
And when the Winter comes at last,
It explodes as one last blast
Of Arctic Ecstasy, from the Headmaster of
The School of West Coast Cool.

Originally published in Thank You, Dave: A Brubeck Tribute, Zerx Press, Albuquerque, New Mexico, copyright ©Gerald Locklin. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Read more of Gerald Locklin‘s poetry in Gerald Locklin: New and Selected Poems (1967-2007) (Silver Birch Press, April 2013), available at