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A Poem by Robert Gainer

Old black and whites play cool in silhouette.
A kind of blue in green mood indigo
he blows right through me without regret,

sketching flamenco in grainy shadow.


I kiss the mic and through my lips his breath

in rasping voice allows this mute to speak

in modal phrased tones of treble clef.

An unwavering sound. Avant-garde. Chic.

I remember how I sweetened his darkness

with metallic zeal like a spoonful of brown.

I try to forget the tears of distress

‘round midnight when the lights went down.

He is gone now and, dented, I am left

neglected, melancholic, bereft,

seldom played save by a loyal few –  

but Miles, when I’m heard, they remember you. 

A Statement by Robert Gainer on his process

A poet’s ‘voice’ is an abstract notion that is difficult to explain. Making parallels to a musician’s ‘sound’ on their instrument helps. Once one has listened to Miles Davis, whenever one hears him again, one knows exactly who is playing. There’s no need to bother the DJ.  Davis’s sound is distinctive, partly because he rarely used vibrato and partly because he often played using a Harmon mute. I imagined the Harmon mute reminiscing over the heyday of Jazz, on the road with Davis, bringing those 1950s grainy black and white photos to life, playing great tunes such as Blue in Green, Mood Indigo, Flamenco Sketches, and ‘Round About Midnight. The ‘old black and whites’ are also suggestive of the racial hostility he faced while on tour with a mix of black and white musicians in the US in the ‘40s and ’50s. Davis's style was ahead of its time and often stylised, drifting in and out of vogue for five decades. He suffered from heroin addiction for many years. He had turbulent and abusive relations with women. He damaged his voice when young and had a hoarse larynx. It is ironic that a man with hardly any physical voice would be one of the most distinctive musical voices of the 20th century. His lived experience was part of that voice. The Harmon was too. My job was to reflect this in a poem.

Back to BoundBy: March'23 (Edition #1)

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