Reading the poet Morgan Parker gives me itchy privates and makes me wonder so much about this loneliness I feel these days. It seems I’m locked off in time, up in front watching the road, lost in the future, waiting for people to catch up.
I’ve been tracking Parker for a couple years. It’s funny that I stumbled into her when her back was turned, but she didn’t of course feel a thing. I’m not just invisible, you can’t even feel me like a breeze, or smell me either.
I was reading an old New Yorker waiting for my girlfriend to come out of her dentist appointment. It was a review of Parker or her newest book or maybe everything she should mean to all of us. “Morgan Parker Gets a Tattoo,” is a bunch of talk about There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé which I did indeed go out and buy a few days later. Actually, I bought two copies because I was well aware that it would be a book I wanted to keep and share at the same time.
And what an introduction reading Beyoncé was to this great American poet! She gave me back a sense of the need for poetics in my fiction. “Maybe that’s the only thing that’ll save your fucking self.” She also enticed me, somehow, to start very serious listening again to John Coltrane and Charlie Parker. I hadn’t paid careful attention since college, back when the sun was shining and I was nimble on my feet, and fearless, a believer in both anger and love.
Now I’m hooked solid on the great trumpeteer, Lee Morgan who played with Trane and was, of course, influenced by Bird. Thanks to Apple Music, I’ve been listening to all of Morgan’s significant albums over the past few weeks. I also read Parker’s poem published in the New York Review of Books (holy shit, woman!), “Search for the New Land.”
“Search for the New Land” is also the title of Lee Morgan’s near 16-minute magnum opus.
I went off and read about Lee Morgan’s life and how he died way too early. I fell in love with his music. I hadn’t known about him at all ever. (I considered myself something of a jazz nut beginning at the age of 20, now I realize I’m really just an appreciator).
Morgan Parker writes of Lee Morgan provocatively in her New Land poem. There’s certainly a great deal of sadness and contemplation in his songs. The same is true of Morgan Parker’s poem, although more than anything it’s got pockets of clear-eyed insinuation hanging off its sides. Lots and lots of references. As they say, You need to read it to be there.
What I know, I think, is that once you’ve thought through a lot of stuff having to do with bebop trumpet and where it goes, you need to ask the question, who do you like more: Miles Davis or Lee Morgan? You can also ask the question, who do you like more: Morgan Parker or Kevin Hart?
So, anyway, now Ms. Parker has published her newest book: Magical Negro, which is unapologetically pissed off at times, smarter than shit, thoughtful, and, really, meaningfully, somehow, coming to us from a truly new land. Which is why I’m writing now, because in the poem “Search for the New Land” Parker writes:
“The future is this awe:
looking up at the sky in California. Blue in Green.
I am always at the edge of the end of the world.”
Sometimes when I’m writing at my best I, too, feel myself at the end of the world. I begin to worry that if I write too fast or simply have certain ideas I will go beyond the end of the world. You get sometimes this sense of falling. Sometimes it’s kind of like flying. And at others, for me, it feels like nothing, like I’ve trapped myself in a void or a vacuum and the only way out is to take a nap.
It’s very clear to me that Morgan Parker and Lee Morgan (and John Coltrane and Charlie Parker and so many others) got and get beyond the end of the world. Morgan Parker, at least, knows what she’s doing out there. I’m not sure about those other guys. They had serious problems with addiction and the manufacturing of joy.
The Giant Lake of Time is something we all share, except for the few who figure out how to duck: Go under, hold your breath, get to the other side, come up, wave some back at all us serious chicken shits who literally don’t know any better standing on the shore either wondering or being assholes.
Morgan Parker finishes “Search for the New Land” thus:
“The trumpet again and again—
wind, blue, one holy bird and everything
possible and promised. The New Land
already waiting for me. Even me.”