Mood Indigo

by Allen Weber
FreeWrights Peer Review
Second Place, March 2012
Judged by John Timpane


Like a blue flame in a speakeasy, that’s how Granddad found her,
shuddering and swaying to Mood Indigo. But family lore won’t
explain what a hard-handed man could whisper to such a woman
that would let her trade downtown celebrity for orchards and fields—

the glamour of tending endless rows. Seventy-two years later,
she’s in Chicago, again. Having met last night the warmest man,
she’s slipped into that old blue dress, packed her valise. Through the screen,
see her rocking the front porch swing, waiting to ride to where she already is.


This tells an intriguing story that not only revolves around but also embodies Duke Ellington’s wondrous, sultry piece. As a poem, it makes me feel much as the musical piece does. The voice sounds as if it belongs to a person of long habitation on this planet, long understanding of the ironies of human history life by life. Quatrains of long lines load every rift with ore yet move sinuously around line-endings: “But family lore won’t/ explain what a hard-handed man could whisper to such a woman/ that would let her trade downtown celebrity for orchards and fields – / the glamour of tending endless rows.” Wonderful and telling. We’ll never know just what he said, just as we’ll never meet the “warmest” (beautiful uncompared superlative!) man for whom she apparently is waiting at the end. This woman always already is where she’s going, even when that surprises the world. I like her and her paradoxes deeply. ---John Timpane

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