Some recent poetry and visual art inspired by the music of Phil Gammage and his collaborators. A huge thanks to Justin Booth (poem) and Emil Gustav Keeler (drawings) for their kind permission to share their work here.


Walking through Harlem

Justin Booth

Walking through Harlem
down St. Nicholas
to see a bluesman
named for a train’s way
and Sidewalk Anne,
have them both maybe
play me a song.

The Rowhouses stand watch
over single speaker Dominican music
played on transistor radios,
the neighborhood statesmen
in camp chairs with beers
and pretty girls
leaned in doorways
talking too loud on the phone.

I’m crossing One Forty Eighth St.
trying to soak it all in like
the last bit of marinara
from the meatballs Gerry
never brought me from Jersey.

I would have sopped it all up
with a crusty piece of bread.

I’m walking down St Nicolas
past the fish and chip joint,
the Texas Star where I
eat my grits daily,
that old school subway stop
just in between.

I walk past patch holding bikers
as they say goodbye
to a brother at Benta’s Funeral Home
their faces turned
sidewalk down.

I walk past a New York City girl,
shaved head and bare navel
she nods and says nice boots but
we both keep on walking.

I walk past a little park with
its benches and the children
whose parents make their lives the best.
I can tell by the smiles on tiny brown faces.

I walk through the crosswalks
serenaded by car horns
the hurried drivers of this place
play a symphony for me.

I look into the sad eyes of
the old women that I meet
nodding my head and
searching for some salutation
I am Southern still, after all.

On Seventh I cut back left
and walk until I hear the jazz guys
with their crazy cool chords.
I go into the bar and ask
for a shot and a beer,
a little time to kill
before Railroad Phil
then walk back up
St. Nicholas Avenue.

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Drawing of the Phil Gammage Quartet and friends.

Emil Gustav Keller

Phil Gammage

Jeanne Rosenberg

Anne Husick

Cosmic Ray

Michael Carter

Robert Aaron

Phil Gammage Quartet with Brian Karp, Phil Gammage, David Fleming, and Roger Stoltz (drawn by anonymous)