I: 4/4


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.

Consuming begins with being consumed.


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

brings movement.


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.