The Sunday Poem: Don McIver... Freddie the Freeloader

Jazz and poetry were made for each other.  This morning, with that dark cloud bank over the Sandias and yellow leaves falling all over town, winter edges into our consciousness.  Mmmmm..."Kind of Blue."  This morning is jazz perfect.

"Ideally, you should queue up Miles Davis' "Freddie the Freeloader" and listen.  You'll want to not read (outloud) the first stanza of my poem until you get to Wynton Kelly's piano solo (about 45 seconds in), then you'll want to wait for the next stanza until you get to Miles solo (about 2:15), and finally read the third stanza when you get to the Cannonball Adderley's solo (about 6:20-the 2nd saxophone solo) and read the third stanza.  Don't read over the first sax solo cause nobody should ever read over a Coltrane solo.  Finally after reading the poem, just sit back and really let the music wash over you...let it cook."

Freddie the Freeloader

They kicked Freddie off the street,
told him he couldn’t approach people on Central,
be a little strange in Nob Hill,
or even just sing.
But he ignored them all
cause he needed a bed for the night,
a warm bland meal
and a long ride in a car
off his feet.
Freddie was always my favorite panhandler,
a term, even now, I say with some hesitation.

It’s Halloween and I haven’t seen a single Hobo.
Black make-up dotting rosy cheeks.
Oversized coats and walking sticks with blankets wrapped on both ends,
and I bought candy,
risked cavities and diabetes by having it just sit here,
waiting for the kids that just don’t come to this hood.
They probably never did.

But I was ready, thinking maybe Freddie would bop along
like some strange saint
And remind me of how lucky I have it;
how this warming planet means he doesn’t have to be so cold;
how much really matters when you’re staring out at a busy road
and listening to a tune that really just
sets you free.

They kicked Freddie off the street,
told him he couldn’t beg for change,
because change might never come.

October 31. 2012

Poetry submissions are welcome.  Email

Views: 214

Comment by BARBARA BYERS on November 11, 2012 at 7:23am

When you get kicked off the street....

Love this poem, Don.

Comment by Margaret Randall on November 11, 2012 at 7:26am

What a great poem, Don, and perfect for this morning! And the listening instructions are another poem, all by themselves.Thinking of those for whom just being able to get off their feet would be a relief makes us all realize how lucky we are. Then there's the end of this poem, where your evocation of change reminds me how fortunate we all are to have avoided a certain change this past week. I never knew Freddie, but I think fondly of Ragman... another person for whom the word panhandler didn't really fit.

Comment by Don McIver on November 11, 2012 at 8:00am

Thanks all...and Jon for letting me add music to it.   And definitely concur with you Margaret on grateful that a certain kind of change didn't happen this week.

Comment by Jules Nyquist on November 11, 2012 at 8:08am
Thanks Don! Wonderful poem..and like the music option too.
Comment by Merimee Moffitt on November 11, 2012 at 8:29am

Hey Don, I had to turn out all the lights and hide at 7:50--I buy 200 servings, enough for 200 little drop-in-the-bags every Halloween.  I figure it's part of my property tax on this elegant hill where they come in card and trucks, many non-English speakers, and even grandma trick or treats with a shy smile, not sure, maybe, why it all happens.  I ran out this year--next I'll up it to 225 little grainola bars and bags of cookies, though they loved the lime green lick em aide best.  And they are all soooo damn cute.  I went out on Halloween once as a bum, a hobo my mom called it.  I admired the chutzpah of bums and winos.  They represented a freedom I knew most women would never have--a male occupation until the sixties--thx for the poem.

Comment by Izquierdo on November 11, 2012 at 12:55pm

Reminds me of Pete, the Tramp, which see *, if you are under fifty-three.

*via Google

Comment by Teresa Gallion on November 11, 2012 at 2:12pm

Nice piece Don...merging the music with the words.

Comment by Dee Cohen on November 12, 2012 at 5:12am

Good thoughts and music. Thanks for this. D


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