Flair by Elaine Feinstein

From yesterday’s Guardian Review (11th April) at http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/11/the-saturday-poem-flair-by-elaine-feinstein

louis_armstrong_by_prie610-d3d9c1q

That whole wet summer, I listened to Louis Armstrong.
Imagined him arriving in New York after Funky Butt
dance halls, wearing hick clothes: those
high-top shoes with hooks, and long
underwear down to his socks.

Thought of him shy in a slick, new band, locked
for two weeks reading the part he was set,
until the night when Bailey on clarinet
took over an old song. Then Louis’ horn
rose in harsh, elated notes,

phrases he’d invented on riverboats
and ratty blues tonks, using all the sinews
of his face and muscle of his tongue.
And what delights me now
is when he grinned to thank

the crowd that stood to clap, he saw
slyly from the corner of his eye
all the stingy players in the band
were sitting motionless, their tribute
only an astonished sigh.

Elaine Feinstein
Elaine Feinstein

From Portraits (Carcanet, £9.99). To order a copy for £7.99 go tobookshop.theguardian.com or call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846.

Also see at The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/sep/25/cities-elaine-feinstein-ruth-padel

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