I love not a man
but a sound. I hear it in the back of Smalls
rocking with my rosé, tasting sevens
in the dark as it all grows redder and golder.
I am easily seduced by basses.
We emerge from the basement with new ears as always
licking our lips to catch licks that linger, our fingers
shift and circle at mental melodies that resonate
through the roar of the streets, the sprinkles
of Greenwich lights beckon us. We sway
and head to the cigar lounge with the picture
of Miles on the wall, the blue print.
I see three note chord voicings as I sip.
A flat is red like my lips. We laugh
about Evans’ hunch and how Coltrane’s pianist
could barely keep up— folk tales in blue.
II: 3/4 with anacrusis
I practice three hours because of
my favorite bassist: his face is a D major triad.
My fingers would play bebop licks in his hair
the ones I mumble in the rehearsal room because
my own keyboard can’t breathe, not like a Steinway.
I knew it was infectious by the way
his head bangs to the beat while he plucks.
A beautiful parasite. I feel it fester
when I drink Monk albums on the bus, certain lines
causing mental starbursts, mini convulsions,
shiny chord stacks catching in the trees.
I screamed when I saw the new Coltrane album on TV.
III: asymmetric meter
My chord voicings are crunchier than granola
I say to myself in my practice room: yes
I talk to myself in my practice room always.
Sometimes they hurt, when my hand still searches
for ones but no, those are for the bassist. Nines
are not new, but elevens and thirteens
are avant garde poems, scotch: they sting,
don’t tumble out ringing like Chopin.
Still, I mold my chords into promises
unlike the ones I tell myself
that never happen. Things that hurt
are usually the most beautiful; major sevens
are just tiny cuts to the ear and no real tune is a joy
to play the first time. Passion fuels pain
IV: alla breve
In our solos we search for a mind
on the keys, frets, valves, in the sticks.
Lead sheet finger maps translate even intervals
page to piano, but after the head your brain
has to close its eyes or it won’t work.
Somehow the licks we feed on will shift
and bend and build empires for our fingers
if we hear enough, play enough, we’re told.
From the darkness, something messy and dripping
and perfectly aperfect will tumble out gleaming,
the shapes that were cooking behind the scenes
on that night when you woke up with blues scales
hanging from your ears mid melodic fever dream, or the ghosts
you heard between Red Garlin’s riffs. We play to hear
what our mind wouldn’t tell us, the words
Ron Carter whispered, pass it on. We play
to tangle mind yarns with them and each other
and everything we will and won’t ever know.