Jazz for My Baby and other works by Arthur Pfister


Arthur Pfister "Professor ARTURO", a poet and fiction writer from New Orleans, is a Spoken Word artist, educator, performer, editor and speechwriter. ARTURO, one of the original Broadside poets of the 1960s, has collaborated on a medley of projects with a melange of artists including painters, musicians, photographers, dancers, singers, fire eaters, waiters, cab drivers, and other members of the Great Miscellaneous. His work has appeared in such diverse publications as FAHARI, American Poetry Review, Shooting Star Review, Minnesota Review, Gallery Mirror, EBONY, From a Bend in the River, Mesechabe, Word Up, Chicory Review, New Laurel Review, New Orleans Tribune, We Speak As Liberators, Black Spirits, A Broadside Treasury, and Swapping Stories: Folktales From Louisiana. He is presently teaching college in CT.


Father & Sons
(for the Marsalis Family)


This poem is a jazz poem
This poem is a music poem
This poem is a Marsalis jazz, music poem
(which is, of course, redundant)
This poem is a jazz poem
This poem is a hot jazz poem
This poem is live!
This poem is the elegance of Ellis
This poem is the brashness and brightness of Branford
This poem is the bewitchingness of Wynton
This poem is Jason's genius
This poem is Delfeayo's potions of emotions
This poem is Dolores (and the luscious fruit of her womb)
This poem is Ellis III (and Mboya, too)
This poem is TODAY and TONIGHT
This poem is Good Morning America (Where y'at?)

This poem is a jazz poem to the messengers of jazz
This poem is a Marsalis poem (in non-standard time)
This poem is a low-down, filthy-dirty, dead wakin'-up, joint-jumpin',
                        slam-dunkin', bushed-out, cotton-mouthed, gumbo-cookin',
                        pot-scrapin', foot-tappin', backhand-slappin',
                        hot sausage sandwich drippin' on the lip-eatin',
                        fomky-like-a-big-dawg jazz poem
                        I got a bone to pick wit choo!)

This poem is about this thing called love at the end of an affair
       when it's sleepytime down South...
This poem is about crazy people music in a jazzy wonderland...
                        about intimacy calling through the magic of the blues...
                        about tuning in tomorrow and bringing on the night for
                          the beautyful ones are not yet born...

What is this jazz thing from Snug Harbor to Boston Harbor?
                                 from Mahogany Hall to Carnegie Hall?
                                   from Sesame Street to Birdland?

This poem is jazz
This poem is improvisational jazz
This poem is monologue and dialogue and trialogue jazz (Sho' ya-right)
This poem is Miss Beulah and BIG BERTHA jazz (Yeah ya-right)
This poem is for Frankie & Johnny jazz (Let her have it)
      (I know that's right)

This poem is earl jazz (not oil jazz)
This poem is carfare jazz (not busfare jazz)
This poem is banket jazz (not sidewalk jazz)
This poem is crawfish jazz (not crayfish jazz)
This poem is milleton jazz (not merliton jazz)
This poem is pecawn jazz (not pecan jazz)
This poem is cowain jazz (not Ninja Turtle jazz)
This poem is okry jazz (not okra jazz)
This poem is soft drink jazz (not soda pop jazz)...

This poem is a song to the Father & sons
This poem is to jazz
This poem is to music
This poem is to Marsalis...


(Commissioned by the Urban League of Greater New Orleans for its annual "Golden Gala")
Wednesday, June 17, 1992 © 1992, 2008


Hurricane Love

My love for you is a hurricane love
(a category 5+ love)
    -a tempting tempest of stormy weather
    -a tropical force
I'm at the mercy of its majesty and power
the brunt of its system's outer bands pounding against your seawalls
horizontal, torrential rains giving you all that your coastline can handle
    -my firmness shattering your shoreline, breaching your levees...
    -the storm's surge pushing up the river
     -my tongue, lasciviously lashing wickedly at your coast
     (lapping at your quivering canal and flooding your waterway)

So batten down the hatches
Don't evacuate too early (Hold on -- I'm comin'!)
the projected path of the storm spawning a direct hit
(its nasty, sustained winds making an imminent landfall on your coastal region)

It's like a hurricane...
its intense, hard, hammering winds -- unbridled, fast and free
spinning tornados whirling, swirling, swelling your banks
the potency of your pleasures and your gargantuan gusts of passion
devastating, smashing, slamming into the morass of your wetlands
blowing me away...


Sunday, 8/31/08 10:32 PM (GUSTAV)
Stamford, CT © 2008



Stagolee and Billy
(A New Awlins Tale)


It's sorry and sad
It's a sin and a shame
-the way some folk gotta git they fame…

The dogs was barkin' late one Saturday night
You kinda felt in the wind sumpin' just weren't right…

The leaves was a' tumblin' from the chineyball trees
The autumn wind was blowin' with a riverfront breeze
The chineyballs bopped on the corrugated tin
on the roof of a bar called the Dew Drop Inn
It was a clear, clear night and the moon was yella
A man was gamblin' in the dark with some other fella
It was Stagolee and Billy gamblin' in the dark
- made a monkey signify, made a Bulldog bark
The lightin' wasn't good; it was real, real late
Stagolee threw a "Seven"; Billy swore it was "Eight"
I was over near the jukebox, shootin' some pool
Stagolee looked at Billy, said: "Git back, fool -
My behind is down South and up North is heaven
I knows 4 and 4 and it ain't no 7"
Billy snapped back, coo-oo-oo-ool as can be
"It was 4 and 4, weren't 4 and 3
I'm my own grown man with bills to pay
I been borned a long time-not yesttiday
I hung out Uptown with Frankie and Johnny
(Let her have it)
robbed the banks from the bayou with Cool Clyde and Bonnie
It was 4 and 4; it was a double pair
It was 2 times 4; by that I'll swear"

Stagolee said:

"You can swear, you can cuss, you can jump up and down
but I'm the main man on this side o' town
This ain't Boscoville; it ain't Pilette Land
You in the Mighty 'Six'; don't-choo unnerstand?
Bring up the brimstone; stoke up the fire
-lil' River Rat boy gon' call me a liar
I'm a .357 and I'll blow you away
-make the day yo' mammy borned you look like Judgment Day


I drink bat blood for breakfast, eat booty for lunch
For Christmas last year I ate the Brady Bunch
My name's Stagolee; I shoots from the hip
My nickname ain't 'Stag'; I'm the 'BIG MONEY GRIP'…
I'm a poo-poo spitter, money-gitter
            nut cracker, pistol packer
            city slicker, butt kicker
            bar hoppa, poppa stoppa
            zoot-suiter, bullshooter
            wham-bamma, flim-flamma (thank-you mamma)…

I'm a roach fighter, booty biter
            heart breaker, baby maker
            stomach stretcher, bullet catcher
            heart stabber, booty grabber
            cotton picker, toe cheese licker

            Bush whacker, beef packer
            tongue sucker, oyster shucker
            diddy bopper, finger popper
            Stetson-tipper, booty whipper…

I'm the dreamer, the schemer, the boaster, the toaster…
I'm so mean I wouldn't give a crippled crab a toothpick for a crutch
(if I owned the who-o-o-ole lumberyard)

I tell you all that, and if that ain't 'nuff-
I done made Mr. Big into Mr. Lil' Stuff
I can drink all the wine from Gentilly to France
make Casper a Spook, make the Bugarman dance
I was born in Angola; I'm the Jailhouse Bard
I done cut up more bodies than Frank Minyard*
Who you tryin' to front, lil' peanut-haid stud?
I shot 69 mens in the Bucket O' Blood
Wimmins eyes bug out when I goes to undressin'
I took my kinnygarden teacher and taught her a lesson
I knew a Stooge named Curly, and Larry and Moe
I made Benny Hill laugh on The Stagolee Show
I'm 8-foot-1; I don't eat hog
I done snatched out the teeth of a Clark Bulldog
I took the purple from a Knight, took the punch from Judy
took the coin from a hornet-and a Buccaneer's booty
I remember that day, my first day in town-
They shivered me timbers (and blew me down)
Yumma dee-dee, Yumma dee-dum
Yo-ho-ho in yo' tummy tum-tum
The last time I died I was just about 8
St. Peter saw me comin' and locked up the gate
I shot 90 strong men on a jive-time tip
on the sawdust floor of the Big-Time Crip
I likes my clothes blood red and my meat real dark
I can roar like a lion (If I-I-I-I were the Ki-i-i-i-ing of the forre-e-e-e-e-est…)
- and swim like a shark
I wrote books with Baraka, played trumpet with Louie
stonewalled with Jack and kingfished with Huey
I'm a Sixth Ward man with a whole lotta soul
- make a wild cherry pop and a hot tootsie roll..
said: make a wild cherry pop and a hot tootsie roll…
I knew the ba-a-a-ad young boys who came up fast
They squeezed they grandmommas' CHARMIN
(kicked the po-leece in the grass)
I hung with Peter O'Brien and Jungle Jim
Jerdan Paige and Treacherous Slim
I knew Black Bill and Michael Lulu,
Bockalock, Fee-Fee, and no-seein' Magoo
Bu-butt, Butty, and Biggy and Boo
Ba-dump, Boona and BIG RED BADOO
And one mo' thing you mights wanna know-
I done seens me mo' fishes than Jacques Cousteau
I did it with yo' sister all summer last year
for a hot sausage san'wich and a bottle o' beer
-Yo' momma, yo' daddy, yo' maw and yo' paw
-Yo' BIG GREASY SISTER and yo' mother-in-law
Wimmins' is like crawfish when I jumps in they beds
'cause I pinches they tails-and sucks they haids
Back in '29 when I got outa jail
I rode yo' stinky mammy like a humpback whale
I turned Jimi Hendrix onto Purple Haze
I was 'Live in New Awlins' with a band called 'MAZE'
On Carnival Day I ran the Injuns off the block
I committed bloody murder-kilt a robin named 'Cock'
I been in Club 77 with a truckload o' gin
- Joe & Jean's, Scotty's and the Don't Drop Inn
I been to Pete's Blue Heaven and the Omaha Bar,
the House of Joy and Dooky's with Petey Wheatstraw
(boy had the devil in him)
I drank beer in Blunt's, shot dice in Del's
pecked in Peck's Steak House, smoked them Pell Mell's
I played with Muddy Waters down on Rampart Street
I outdanced the Pips, outshot Pistol Pete
I'm a son of a gun, born just to hate
My mammy's .45 and my daddy's .38
I gotta scratch for a murder and a itch for a fight
'cause I snorts gunpowder and I smokes dynamite
said: I snorts gunpowder and smokes dynamite…"

Billy said:
"You bell-bottomed sissy, you conk-haired chump
Yo' daddy is the camel and yo' mammy is the hump
You sound like a reindeer, a big Rudy Pooty
Yo' brain got mo' hole than the Toulouse Booty
I'm a straight-up man, got no reason to cheat -
Ask the Signifyin' Monkey down on Claiborne street
You might be ba-a-a-a-a-a-a-ad and smoke KOOL Mild
but don't mess with me, 'cause I'm my paw's child…"

Before Billy finished a' havin' his say
Stagolee pulled a pistol, turned it Billy's way…

"Stagolee," said Billy, "don't shoot me dead--
I'ma standin' over here justa runnin' ma haid
I ain't got no razor or no carpet knife
I gots three lil' chirrens and a sickly wife
Why you comin' down so hard tonight?
I sure likes to wrestle, but I don'ts like to fight
I goes to church every Sunday with ma oldest boy
The only gun I owns is a kiddy toy
Mr. Stagolee, don't shoot me dead
Don't take my life 'cause o' what I said…"

Billy saw every bullet in the barrel o' the gun
and knew he wouldn't live to see the risin' o' the sun…

Stagolee said:

"Money is Money and cash is cash
Watch what you says 'fore you talks that trash"


Stagolee shot Billy, shot him so fast
that the bullet went through Billy, broke the bartender's glass…
While Billy's body got cold on the barroom floor

Stagolee took a powder-straight out the back door
The po-leece caught him jumpin' a backyard fence
and nobody seen Stagolee ever since…

So it's a sin and a shame; it's sad, but its true
That some folk do what they ought'nt not do…

But you cain't drain the water from the Seven Seas
You cain't put the chineyballs back on the trees…


* Orleans Parish Coroner

New Orleans
September © 1990
(A Tough Season)



Jazz for My Baby


Your music brings the wings of wisdom to my words
for loving you is like a jazz tune
-feeling your up-tempo, unconstrained spirit
-caressing the melodically thematic solos of your polyrhythmic flesh
-be-boppin' in the wet & warm, deep caverns of your secret, secluded sweetness
-hearing your collaborative, compelling voice
-experiencing the improvisational perfumes of your fragrant forest flower
It's like a jazz tune (straight, no-chaser earfood in my heart and soul)
It's creatively ecstatic (dynamically syncopatic)
-concretely unconditional, abstractly traditional (as time goes by)
Like jazz...
It's like I'm in with the 'in' crowd (live at the Village Vanguard or poetin' at Smalls)
-flying high in Birdland while steppin' into the shadows of tomorrow at first light
Ooh-bob-sha-bam! I get a kick out of the very thought of you
I want to talk about you 'cause you're too darn hot
(You've got it in your soulness, so put a lil' sugar in my bowl)
You're a strange meadowlark free as a bird livin' the lush life and takin' five
You leave me breathless ev'ry time we say goodbye when you're gone with the wind
(I'm in a sentimental mood and I got it bad)
That old black magic and the shadow of your smile have me goin' outa my head
-the expansions and reflections of your impressions on the misty stardust over red clay
(how high the moon)
Things ain't what they used to be
So what? Compared to what?
I still feel like someone in love 'round midnight or softly, as in a morning sunrise
(they can't take that away from me, for you're still my one and only love)
It's just one of those things (one of my favorite things)
-one of those foolish things making my Spanish eyes misty on a night in Tunisia
Well, voodoo woman - it's flight time and onward 'til morning
I'll be seeing you (I just can't get started)
You've changed, but change makes me wanna hustle for salt peanuts on summer days
For all we know we'll be together again bumpin' on sunset at a freedom jazz dance
Loving you is like a party
Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! What a wonderful world!
It's a love supreme
     a love supreme
     a love supreme...



Small's Jazz Club, NYC
Saturday, August 30, 2008 7:35 PM
© 2008