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Lay for the Day
1st April

The pianist Duke Jordan, who joined the Charlie Parker Quintet in 1947, and played on some of Bird’s greatest recordings, was born on this day in 1922 in New York City. The poem was inspired by seeing him play in Helsingør, Denmark, in 1998.

Diamond Heart Blues

Portrait of Duke Jordan

It cuts clean thru glass
& it sparkles like tears
w/ a brilliance to last
@ least 1m years.

When the fountains of the deep
Lie down in the dust to sleep
The day will have come to lose
Your diamond heart blues.

Born in the heart of the coal
The old flame burns in your soul
Which the hammer won’t break
And the thief in the night can’t take,
Which the cunning hand didn’t make.

When the bells ring down from the hill
And the world is all lying still
The angels will
Swing down to shake it
Free of the rust and grime
Of a weary long time.

Every face, every edge will still shine,
The undying sign
Clear as good news,
Your diamond heart blues.

John Gibbens
from The Improvised Version, Vol. 1

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar