Ed Roberson

pick him up and take him to the jail




American Jazz Quartet



1.   piano


      In the Lobby, Not the Doorman



      In the evening when people are returning home

anxious to abandon the strain of these attentions,

he comes downstairs from his apartment

and stakes out the bench in the lobby

by the elevators where he has everybody

who enters the building trapped

into socializing with him, if by even

no more than an annoyed nod and a tired

look away from a cheer come of the predatory.

      Their dresses, how good they look, how he'll be up

for dinner at their place in a minute,

how he knows you out there makin' all that money.

      The people in this building are out there

making like he must have at one time.

Or done, made it and sat down. These floors aren't cheap.

He's harmless. But how we haunt our own success.




2.    bass


urban specific




standing on the corner begging

for company      a little change


in conversation      something different

made      of to have to come up with


by the see you later      or else

be in that killing


loneliness of a room      even on the street

stopping people      still left alone –


old      crime      neither poor nor disorderly

just vagrant time's       old crime of age


unaddressed      victim nor perpetrator    just

a man whose only empty pockets are of people


come around        asks if you can spare a little

while     so he can make the train home




3.   saxophone


      Then There's This One, Pick Him Up



pick him up and take him to the jail

of his winnings, take him into house arrest

up from his success, winner lifted

out of his easy to get to by people,  drive      


the diamond under his fingernail

up through the flesh to pimple as

his wearing and pop light in folks' eyes

having his nothing come from


funny money –

but a callous disease from discipline

that cuts him off is no joke 


no plus

size chile who's got    nor his own

he's somebody else's crime for his time




4.   drums


      Funds for Charity



An angry generosity

comes from the careless hold he has

on what little he has;

      much is taken.


And angered if not from that, then that

he goes along with his losses too


      too pride-hustled to question.


      So, he

is always wanting back,

never clear he has given, only sure

the gleaners expect too much.


      Then, angry resentment

at the little he has for spill

compared to that his privilege has

to flurry from      for him, for white's own

      on its white landfill,


that cold storm of trickle down

from coffers vast and out of reach,

privately owned as the sky,

      the deaf sky.