Art of the Written Word at ENCORE!



James E. Tokley, Sr., author

Not all art at ENCORE! is of the visual variety. James Tokley, Official Poet Laureate of both Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa, has penned written tributes in honor of the inspiration and legacy behind ENCORE!—and for the four expertly designed residences in Downtown Tampa’s Tempo District, which will vividly and soulfully carry that legacy into tomorrow.

To Elegant Ella: In Her New Home

From the sleepless streets of Harlem
To the Harlem of the South
Just a jump from Central Avenue
In a room at the Jackson House

There sat a somber, pensive lady
With a melody on her mind …
A lyrical pet she could not forget …
In a basket she could not find!

For decades, yet, she lost it
Where she laid it out of hand
But in be-bop style, it followed her smile,
Like a puppy in Wonderland

With blues notes then she led it
Where the basket found her true …
In a new high-rise singing jazz lullabies
from Central Avenue!

Though the Savoy sleeps in Harlem
And the Silver Moon is dead
Sweet Ella Fitzgerald in her best jazz apparel
is a vision that sings in our heads

Where she lounges in her apartment
That is found on the very first floor
Inside, there’s a cute yellow basket
Filled with candy and jazz, at the door!
Copyright © 2012 James E. Tokley, Sr. All Rights Reserved for Tampa Housing Authority

To Live Inside The Note (The Trio)

And we in a city where music was born
And was nursed at the breast of a blues guitar
Shall build three high-rises in sound and form
For the orphans of Central who’ve traveled afar

Trio, we’ll call them, high-rise and in tune
From first floor to rooftop, resplendent and new
Made up from the stuff that created the moon
That rekindles a new day that’s long overdue

Three sisters with bright eyes that welcome daylight
And in darkness of evening let lullabies in
Adorned with gardenias in Holiday white
Like a blues song blossoms in a soft Tampa wind

And in these three towers, a tenor shall rise
A baritone voice shall bring tears to dark eyes
While a proud bass will rumble way down in his throat
And a world will be humble to live in the note

Or, perhaps, midst this music of stucco and steel
Three young girls intent with the myst’ry of sound
Will recover what Motown discovered was real
As a new trio, Supreme and renowned!

For, what in great encore, this Trio beholds
Is a noble attempt at a rebirth of souls
Is a dream, if constructed in loving reform
Will jazz the creation of a Basie-reborn

Where children who play here will someday reveal
A rhythm n’ blues to the music they feel
In the echo of trios whose names we could list
But the list would grow endless in the broad morning’s mist.

Instead, we shall ask that you keep them in mind
Whose music was gospel to a world that was blind
And when you move in, from the first to the top
Remember the trios with their timeless doo-wop!
Copyright © 2012 James E. Tokley, Sr. All Rights Reserved for Tampa Housing Authority

The House of Miss Essie Mae

According to Miss Honey
(and I know she speaks for true),
There was nothing for love or money / that
Mom Essie couldn’t do

For, she seldom met a stranger
But sometimes, when she did,
She’d tell that rascal about himself
And he went somewhere and hid!

For, this was the House of Miss Essie Mae Reed
In the middle of Central Park
A sanctuary in time of need
A light in surrounding dark!

But on those very special days
When a Tampa sun shown through,
Like her daughter said, even on her sick-bed
There was nothing that Miss Essie couldn’t do …

Like the time she helped make certain
that her neighbors went to vote
Or the day she convinced the powers-that-be
that work gives people hope!

Or the night she and her very best friends,
Decked out in their finest gowns,
Had a ball in Tampa’s best hotel
Where they stared racism down!

But Time sings fast
And that lyrics that it casts
Are melodies it renders loud and clear
Though Central Park is gone,
Miss Essie Mae Reed lives on
And the passion that she wore, she still holds dear!

So, we have come, today
To the House of Miss Essie Mae
To the place where her namesake shall rise to claim her
And a hundred years from now,
Someone still will speak, somehow,
Of Miss Essie Mae Reed, who seldom met a stranger!
Copyright © 2012 James E. Tokley, Sr. All Rights Reserved for Tampa Housing Authority


Could an architect conceptualize
A symphony that scrapes the skies
A song whose notes are cut from stone
Or a tenement draped in baritone?

Tampa sound!
Its pylons thrusting from the ground / that are
Part of a plan that, when done, will be
A tribute standing tall and free!

So, Architect, if you can hear,
Construct a tempo, tall and clear
In 4-4 time where Yardbird breaks
“How High the Moon” with no mistakes
Where the cool of a room cathedral high
Makes Miles of music fit to fly

No box, this time, but a home of dreams
Where an Ellington lyric calms the screams
Of a toddler who may yet live through
What it means to grow up “Indigo Blue”
For, the day you finish it, we will come
With Fender bass and conga drums
To beat a path where jazz will grow
To nestle in this oak you’ll call Tempo!

And when you lay your corner stone,
New Tempo will resume the home
That Harlem built when it first broke ground
In a segregated Southern town
And somewhere, an infant Tampa Red
Will drowsily be put to bed
In a Tempo apartment two bedroom
Where the metronome of life out-strides the gloom!

For, a spirit waits to be reborn
Up-Tempo-Central-Avenue form
And what has been, but had no chance
For a final bow will again tap-dance
Bojangles-style with a kitchen chair
What he taught to a fledgling Fred Astaire

And a small-town girl from a Tampa mist
Will proudly reinvent the Twist
As she returns, imbued with light
That once was Tampa, day & night!

So, Architect who won the prize,
Of rebuilding the past with the future’s eyes
We trust your blueprints will infuse
The melodies of downhome Blues
In living-rooms of width and height
That usher in a sea of light!

And when the golden shovel sinks
A shiny tooth in what we think
no human eye shall ever see
For at least another century,
May a Tampa baby close his eyes
To a restrung Tempo lullaby
And may my prophecies all come true
For, the truth is always greater
Than whatever dreams may do!
Copyright © 2012 James E. Tokley, Sr. All Rights Reserved for Tampa Housing Authority