Writing the Blues

It was recently the birthday of Aigars Lapsa, a close friend of my family and a world-class blues photographer. To honour him and his passion for blues music and photography, I dedicate this original poem to him, as a birthday gift.


Smoke twines beneath the door,

heady and thick,

smelling of golden whisky and sweet dark rum.

Intricate dancing notes

sax and horn

wail, tease, intoxicate –

draw listeners into a dizzy swirl,

this dangerous improvisation.

Knees in long, damp coats

and knees in sparkling dresses

brush against each other

as tables shift and creak.

Ice cracks in a glass,

clean and clear, gunshot-sharp

against a whisper heavy with too much lipstick.

Here, glances are swift, sensual, careful at once,


over the walls without windows.

Spaces between tables

are full of too-close dancing and musky sweat.

Beneath the floorboards

the stills are busy,

squeezing exhiliration and abandon

into shining flasks.

Clack, clack, clack!

The door shakes with knocking,

the room freezes.

No one enters here

without a password.

~ Marta Ziemelis. Written in Riga, Latvia, copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

A little note on the genesis of this piece: When I think of Aigars, one of the first things that comes to mind is blues music. I wanted to write him something that centered around blues and jazz…but how to approach it? Then I thought, what kind of place might be improvisational, perhaps off the grid, and subject to its own laws, just like the blues? The first place which came to mind was a 1920’s Prohibition-era speakeasy. I decided that I would try to combine the two elements, and you see the result above.

For any fans of blues or photography (or both!), please feel free to take a look at Aigars’ website, which showcases his work: http://aigarsphoto.com/


3 thoughts on “Writing the Blues

  1. zane says:

    Marci…i love “whisper heavy with too much lipstick.”
    great poem. I want to go there…

  2. I’m glad you like! Maybe you could do a painting of it? That way, we could go there visually…

  3. […] my earlier piece ‘Speakeasy’, ‘Crusaders’ Road’ is intended as a ‘snapshot’ of a particular […]

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