Mister Louis Armstrong

Master of the pearly whites—teeth
Offense against the enemy, Defense against

The pain ….

            Irrepressible Louie-man
            MAN the operative word

Child/man at seven, fresh-dented coronet

            Serious man, jubilant man
            MAN the operative word

Wanted to be his real self
Wanted us to know his real self
His invincible, unconquerable real self
His straight man self

            MAN the operative word

Later be singing riffs and jive talking, gapp’n
with his antonyms, ‘n synonyms in his ‘oth-er-man’ hand

            MAN the operative word
            Said he

Could always fall in the righteous groove, or—
Could beef on back with Duke—virtual dictionary
in his eyes-on-the-prize hand, pullin his ownself up

            Irrepressible jazzman
            MAN the operative word

Went through life a double-man
Wearing a Dunbar mask and soaring
a Dubois song strong in his head

            “Pops” the irrepressible music man
            MAN the operative word

A getting along, hear my song
Trying t’love the world man

A language man, creative with words
A two-fingered blip, he said
Reachin for the music hidden in his typewriter
Singing on the keys, this is Lou-is world
A writer, ax in hand

            This jazzman, the
            irrepressible Louis-man
            Man the operative word

To finally triumph over the inhuman ways we become
human … this hu-ed manchild
From a south Dixie orphanage
Dented coronet in hand
tutored before he could escape
In southern survival styles

            The only weapon they can’t take from you
            is your smile, boy, smile boy ….

Become man the hard way, boy
with MAN, the operative word

            The ultimate goal—y’prize:
                 The ability to choose
            The power to make the final
                 substantive decisions

                          The accomplishment:     

            Mister LOU   IS Armstrong!

Sweet Papa Dip—perfect rhythm, perfect pitch
                      America’s gift to the world
            International Ambassador of Music

         Irrepressible jazz man
         MAN the operative word …

From Continuum: New and Selected Poems (Just Us Books, Inc., 2007 and 2014) by Mari Evans. Copyright © 2007 and 2014 by Mari Evans. Used with the permission of the Estate of Mari Evans.