For Jazz

          Mary Lou Williams

Unseen, she scribbled, by a flashlight, on her knees,
In the back of the bus on those endless all-night drives,
Band scores for Goodman, Ellington. For these
The payments might reach fifty, maybe seventy-five.
The Clouds of Joy ran for a tough decade
On Mary’s midnight writings, yet the money
Was always thin, although, she said, they played
Her tunes on every jukebox in the country.
It was on Mary’s windowpane that Webster knocked
That night that Hawkins and the Kansas horns were locked
In combat at the Cherry Blossom, Mary who recognized
The art of Monk and Christian, Mary, at sixteen, who surprised
Fats Waller once, matching him note for note. He ran,
Embraced and tossed her in the air, ‘laughing like a crazy man’.