On a ledge, I align 20 stones,
dark ovals smooth as the inside of my thigh, small orbs
ringed with white.
“Something Sweet, Something Tender,”
circles written when the seas retreated,
the raw song of mourning.
Dolphy’s clarinet turns a slow tide that surges and drifts.
He holds a bag of logic and many colors
fitted into keys, an anthem of sense and anger,
the loud shadow of a burden. His reed pushes, scatters.
New language forms. Everyone collects behind the beat
Vibes burble on the ocean of tomorrow
as bass strings sink spasms
of plodding sadness in cool air; each returning swell
a sphere collected on a beach the size of sound.
The trumpet comes in sullen; tones drop
like an anchor.
No one realizes, and a soul bleeds.
New language forms.
Everyone collects behind the beat
until the clarinet grabs a line and knots up dusk
with ginger-sharp thought.
Understanding makes me dizzy. My pulse syncopates
in rhythm to the plucked, torn sound,
a noise that wears itself down, the chunked voice
of five men playing a deep confusion layered by time,
the sediment constantly smoothing, forever softening,
until all that remains is dark –
rimmed with a white bracelet from another era.
Lauren Camp is the author of three books, most recently One Hundred Hungers, winner of the Dorset Prize (Tupelo Press, 2016). Her poems have appeared in New England Review, Poetry International, At Length, Beloit Poetry Journal, and as a Poem-a-Day for Poets.org. Other literary honors include the Margaret Randall Poetry Prize, the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award, a Black Earth Institute Fellowship. This piece was originally published in This Business of Wisdom (West End Press, 2010).
Image via JP Jazz Archives/Redferns.