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 means to all of us. “Morgan Parker Gets a Tattoo,” is all sorts 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.
What an introduction reading Beyoncé was! She gave me back a sense of poetics in my work. “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. I’ve got like all his significant albums. I 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. (Another). I fell in love with his music. I hadn’t known about him at all. Morgan Parker writes of Morgan provocatively in her New Land poem. There’s a great deal of sadness and contemplation in Lee’s songs. The same is true of Morgan’s poem, although that’s got pockets of clear-eyed insinuation hanging off its sides more than anything. Lots and lots of references. As they say, “You need to read it to be there.”
Once you’ve thought through a lot of stuff having to do with bebop trumpet and beyond, you can 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 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 feel myself at the end of the world. I worry that if I write too fast or have certain ideas I will go beyond the end of the world. 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. Time is something we all share, except some people figure out how to duck: Go under, hold your breath, get to the other side, come up, wave some back at all the serious chicken shits who literally don’t know any better standing on the shore. 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.”