The First Few A’s in St. James Infirmary

The First Few A’s in St. James Infirmary
William P. Gottlieb, Portrait of Louis Armstrong, Carnegie Hall, New York, N.Y. (ca. Feb. 1947), public domain, from Wikimedia Commons.

This is one of a series of poems exploring the life and work of jazz pioneer Louis Armstrong.

After Louis Armstrong’s pronunciation during his singing of his Hot Five and Hot Seven hit “St. James Infirmary

That song’s first “A” didn’t show up, must’ve been sick.

That “A” didn’t show up, could’ve been sick.

Or maybe missed the call ’bout the gig between my lips.

Listen in close, the “A” in infirmary died in my mouth.

Listen in, the “A” in infirmary doubled over in my mouth.

Some folks might not notice but my pronunciation’s a gangster

and it rubbed that letter out.

Or maybe I choked on that second syllable in Infirmary.

I might have strangled that second syllable of Infirmary.

Make that sick place, the In-fum-ry, sound kind of funry.

But like Jesus some letters can rise from the dead,

like a phoenix a letter might could rise from the dead.

Cause I stretch’s that first syllable of ba-by as if that 3rd “A” caught a second breath.

Makes sense that that first “A” done a do over in the second line

Understand how that first “A” might have done a done over in the second line

Ain’t about no post-homegoing celebration. It’s about a letter that got pushed aside

Maybe that 3rd line’s “table” is stretched out and long.

Baby that “table” is so gooey and so long.

It’s competing with the second line’s 3rd syllable

for most drawnnned-outtttest thing in that song.  




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