Poetry Review

Jeff Kaliss reads poetry to jazz at 7 Mile House, San Francisco, with Don Alberts Renaissance Band. Late Don Alberts on keys at right. April 9, 2016. Photo: J.Macon King

Featured poet — Jeff Kaliss

For Jeff Kaliss interview see Salon.

A poem written while listening to Andrew Speight and group perform the title song, at the Café Stritch in San Jose. 

songbook: Autumn in New York

Why does it seem,
long after I left,
long after she left,
autumn invites Aunt Stella
down from her penthouse
to walk her way
into it,
just a few blocks east
at Central Pak,
where 93rd stops being west.

And the hurried grid of Manhattan
spread-eagles suddenly
onto rocks and grass
and Stella can pass
through birds scurrying
through what’s left
of their September sounds,
and Stella can still sniff
past her own perfume
and still inhale
auspicious splendor
of autumn decay.

Passing the benches
of Central Park,
she kicks her Bergdorf boots
through unpackaged piles
of crackling russet riot
which the trees, green gone,
would not hold on to.

Stella turns to me
to wonder with me
what it will be like
to be scattered and remembered
this way.


Speak to me through open windows,
in licking language,
with familiarity fresh
as it is tasty,
but showing off
in my shaded office,
so I can’t but smile
to let you know I know
that it’s you, not me.

Send me a letter
of love I don’t know yet
but you know,
because you are,
and you need a receiver
to press yourself upon.

Let me hear
how you sing to yourself,
when you’re romancing yourself,
when you’re wanting to get yourself into bed,
or out of it
and over to the desk.

Deliver to me
a caring package
of goodies you think I’ll like,
because you’ve binged on them,
and treat me to
the sources of what’s nourished you
and gotten you as far as me.

Transmit to me
groups of glyphs
to get me spinning
in your direction,
drawn towards you
through time and space,
together in new orbits.

Down Apiece

She lies down,
downhill from the clapboard house, and the barn,
far from her bed,
and she rises to rest
down left on Wyeth’s canvas.

There she stretches
along all our memories
where she may stay,
if only she can,
long past the sea-cooled day’s dusk
outside the town of Thomaston,
and long after,
after she’s gone to ground
in the town cemetery,
and the artist has been lain
beneath a worded stone,
way down along the rolling hills
of Pennsylvania.

For now, with us,
she feels with the brief, short life
of a Maine meadow,
in all its amber multitude,
her eyes, away from ours,
watching the waves of simple splendor,
no place for longing there.

The Death & Everlasting Life of Glenn Frey (1948-2016)

“It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford,
Slowin’ down . . . “

Slowin’ down, to pick up Glenn Frey.
That guy from the Eagles, taking the early ride,
the early flight south, to death.

Swing low, sweet Flatbed Ford!
Early to death, and early to rise,
makes a man legend, not always wise,
makes a man gone.
Makes me feed the jukebox at the Portals,
over forever nightcaps, forever.
Next morning, makes me wake up, to versify,
too early.

Slowing down, forever.
To take a look at me.
Young and firm and friendly.
To take a look at her.
Take a look at Linda!
Winslowing south on Routes 17 & 10, to Tucson,
to take a look at Linda Ronstadt, young and ripe
and hanging on a gearshift.

Hitching a ride on Linda’s flatbed wooden stage, way out West,
to the Whiskey a Go Go, on the Sunset Strip,
full of LA girls in halter-tops,
full of kinds of fun, legals and illegals,
for guys becoming Eagles,
full of guitars to grab, drums to pound, keyboards to twiddle,
full of the glad sounds of being,
sung through Linda’s succulent girl-mouth,
her chocolate eyes showing what we can do, and should do,
to try and pull the reins in.
Ride ‘em, Cowgirl, in tight jeans.

After the set, we unplugged, went out back, and got older.
We got sold, we bought,
we broke up bands and marriages.
We lost our hearing.
Or was it just the good music we lost?
And here we are with Glenn,
faded further than our jeans,
on our last, aching legs,
long hair grayed and thinned.
Wheezing in the dust of Winslow, Arizona.
Interstate 40 is the new Route 66.
Glenn was 67.
He wasn’t new.

But what a fine sight to see!
A final sight.
A girl, my Lord, with angelic horde,
slowin’ down to get old Glenn, dust him off,
and carry him to where the songs are free and forever.

She ain’t singing, that girl.
She might be humming.
But she sure looks like Linda.

When will she be back for the rest of us?

Jeff Kaliss reads poetry to jazz at Bird & Beckett bookstore San Francisco, 2018. Bassist Ollie Dudek. (Not shown singer Thu Ho, pianist Grant Levin.) 7 Mile House poster with Kaliss & King, 2016.

Note: Autumn in New York was originally published in Forum magazine from City college of San Francisco, Fall 2019. Bird & Beckett photo from Kaliss collection.