The Club Baby Grand


Seems strange standing here

in the place my parents spoke so fondly of.

When I close my eyes and listen with my mind’s ear,

I can hear them laughing and see them dancing.

Their voices rising and falling sharply

in tones of now ancient hipness.

Standing here at the Club Baby Grand.

I recall those intimate nights of Mommy and Daddy

rapping to me my sister and brothers

about how they rode the original A train to Harlem,

stomped at the Savoy and had big times at Small’s.

How they lindyhopped and softshoed their way into weekend frenzies.

Cab Calloway, zoot suits, bee-bop, red dresses and high heeled sneakers,

mama and daddy losing themselves

in the soul of a Dinah Washington blues song.

The Brown Bomber would win another fight,

and it was big times and parties under Harlem lights.

As I stand here and I close my eyes,

I can see them dancing.

Dancing the way they would dance for us

in our lower east side apartment.

The living room floor would transform into their ballroom

and they would bounce to their feet,

forcing their bodies to recall youthful movements.

I can see it so clearly now.

My mama, she’s up on the floor,

swinging and swaying like Langston Hughes’ poet words.

Then my daddy, he picks up the groove.

He steps back, spins around, pulls a split,

slides up in time to catch Mama’s hand

at the high point of her spin.

Now me, my sister and brothers are on the edge of the couch,

caught up on our parents’ every move.

Moves that do justice to ancient tribal dances.

Dances that our people danced long before ocean and time

put Harlem on our minds.

Then as quickly as the images came,

they seemed to be fading in the distance.

And I can hear my Mama’s voice,

“alright kids, brush your teeth before you go to bed.”

And I can see my older sister walking towards the t.v. set,

Getting ready to catch the end of the Late, Late Show.

And Mommy and Daddy, they’re walking hand in hand to their


with Baby Grand yesterdays still glowing in their eyes.

When I close my eyes and listen with my mind’s ear,

I can hear the music:

I don’t stay out late, nowhere to go

I’m home about eight, me and my radio

ain’t misbehavin; I’m saving my love for you

When I close my eyes,

I can see them dancing,

dancing at the Club Baby Grand.



   –Layding Lumumba Kaliba

 Reprinted from the book in the absence of god, an auto-poemography by Layding Lumumba Kaliba