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At a Jazz Bar in Denver with My Son and His Friends, I Learn Something New
Mary Jo Balistreri


I sit and listen in the midst
of my son's crowd, speak
a bouncy banter.
We kill time
with the Simpsons before
David plays jazz.
In jeans and casual jackets,
we drink Coors,
check the wind-tossed sky,
the flash of lightning, hoping
in spite of the weather, a crowd
will pour through the door.
After a while, I hear a shift
of tone, a carefulness
I hadn't noticed before.
In a conversation of augmented fifths
and ninths, the friends address me
in safe thirds. I listen more carefully.
Where is the cutting edge,
the forward motion? We converse
in C major, squarely metered.
I sit back stunned. The lack
of dissonance strikes a new chord.
When did Youth leave me and move on?
I adjust my position on the barstool,
lean into her absence, wonder
how I never saw her go.

From Joy in the Morning (Bellowing Ark Press, 2008)
© Mary Jo Balistreri
Used with the author's permission


Mary Jo Balistreri was a concert pianist for most of her life, but in 2005 she began writing poetry after the death of her seven-year-old grandson. Poetry gradually helped her transform her grief into something resembling acceptance. Mary Jo’s award-winning work is widely published and she is the author of four collections: Still, gathering the harvest, Best Brothers, and Joy in the Morning. In 2014, Mary Jo began writing haiku and haibun and, since then, has turned almost entirely to Japanese forms. Mary Jo lives in Wisconsin; learn more about her at






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grateful quill:
Insightful. I like poems that make me think and this is one.
Posted 12/21/2014 06:40 PM
Masterful, and an experience I can relate to! Well done, Mary Jo.
Posted 12/20/2014 12:15 PM
How much more the musician sees and hears than us mortals! Absolutely love the sensitivity in this poem.
Posted 12/19/2014 07:12 PM
We, of a certain age 'outside' can relate, while 'inside, we are whatever age we want to be ~ You touch a lot of us with this beautifully written poem, Jo. Namaste, Judy
Posted 12/19/2014 07:11 PM
though it is not music, I learn much from my grown son David--love the poem, Mary Jo. And p.s., granddaughter Grace inspired me to pick up the guitar at this ancient age! Sharon Auberle
Posted 12/19/2014 11:58 AM
Janet Leahy:
Jo this is one of my all time favorites, love how the music runs through the poem.
Posted 12/19/2014 09:52 AM
Glen Sorestad:
I loved this one, Mary Jo, maybe because I love jazz and have shared this experience almost down to the T.
Posted 12/19/2014 09:04 AM
For me, the poignance is more than our loss; maybe theirs. The switch to safety among the young seems a bit like a return to the 50's. Where is the cutting edge? It begs conversation, but then that wouldn't be safe. An important insightful poem.
Posted 12/19/2014 08:44 AM
Wilda Morris:
Well constructed poem, Jo. I love it!
Posted 12/19/2014 08:17 AM
I hated losing "that girl." Although, I am sure she is still inside my wrinkly self. Better than the alternative!
Posted 12/19/2014 08:09 AM
I've always loved this one. We are so connected to our children when they are young and then gradually they drift into their own lives.
Posted 12/19/2014 06:26 AM
Love the ending...I have been feeling the same way lately...
Posted 12/19/2014 12:53 AM
Those moments of truth hit hard and sudden. Remember and can relate to this meaningful poem. Well done.~~~Doris
Posted 12/19/2014 12:06 AM

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