Monday, January 29, 2018

#255: Three Poems by Gregory Luce

~This poem was first published in Logical Reader (1997).

“Better git it in your soul”
(for Jim)

Better embrace it like Mingus’
bass, stroke it, caress it, pull it in,
draw it like smoke, drink it
like old bourbon burning
all the way down.
Then give it back.


~This poem was first published in Dancing Shadow Review (1997).

Some Grackles

One windowpane only
stands between you and
what’s out there,
the lawn slowly filling
with sunlight that stings
your eyes a little
but you keep on
looking anyway waiting
while coffee drips,
one eye propped
open and glassy,
like a stuffed bird’s,
and outside on the lawn
some grackles are milling,
mobbing and strutting,
flaunting their tails like
soiled shiny suspect flags.

~This poem was first published in Shades of Gray (1998).


(for Reuben Jackson)

Misterioso? Yes,
like a gray cat
at night jumping
into and out of
a sliver of light
on the sidewalk.
Misterioso, yes, the way
big raindrops hit
a metal roof, pool
and slide down
in spatters and
The way hot oil
jumps and pops
its rhythms
in the skillet.
Yes, misterioso
like a walk in the night
through New York,
New Orleans,
Paris, or your city or
mine when the sounds
and smells and flavors
flow and dance around
you and the feeling is, yes,



“Better git it in your soul” was inspired by the Mingus composition of that name. I love jazz obsessively, especially that of the era that produced the great bebop and hard bop artists like John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk (both of whom I’ve written about frequently), Miles Davis, Eric Dolphy, and Charles Mingus. Besides being a homage to Mingus and the music, it also tries to express something about the nature of poetic inspiration.
“Some Grackles” was a title in search of a poem for a couple of years. Birds are another of my obsessive loves and I am always noticing them. I spotted the grackles that inspired this poem many years ago at the side of I-70 while driving to Ohio with my then-wife. They caught my eye and I idly said, “There’s some grackles.” That phrase stuck in my mind thereafter and I thought what a great title it would make. About two years later, reading a passing reference to a grackle in Richard Wilbur’s poem “Lying,” and Anthony Hecht’s wonderful “Crows in Winter” helped the pieces click into place.
“Sphere,” as the dedication implies, was a response to Reuben Jackson’s poem “thelonious” that refutes the notion that Monk’s music is bizarre or unintelligible. It is by no means a rebuttal, but a playful engagement, a tribute to both Thelonious and Reuben. I especially prize this poem because it began my friendship with Reuben: I found a mailing address (this was well before e-mail) and sent him the poem. He replied with warmth and kind words and eventually we met in person and began an acquaintance that continues today.



Gregory Luce is the author of Signs of Small Grace (Pudding House Publications), Drinking Weather (Finishing Line Press), Memory and Desire (Sweatshoppe Publications), and Tile (Finishing Line). His poems have appeared in numerous print and online journals, and in the anthologies Living in Storms (Eastern Washington University Press), Bigger Than They Appear (Accents Publishing), and Unrequited and Candlesticks and Daggers (ed. Kelly Ann Jacobson). In 2014 he was awarded the Larry Neal Award for adult poetry by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Retired from the National Geographic Society, he lives in Arlington, VA. and works as an instructor for Writopia Lab. He blogs at

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