Sensitivity

By Jake Adam York 1972–2012

May 4, 1959

for Mack Charles Parker, lynched near Poplarville, Mississippi, April 24, 1959,
recovered from the Pearl River, May 4, 1959

Six weeks since that whisper rose
into the window of a stage
behind the Half Note's bar,
whisper Mingus let spread like a bruise,
Lester Young is dead, six weeks
since he fell from the sky,
dead off the plane from Paris,
and each night this goodbye's
gone more sensitive. Now
the flats are hid, and Handy's learned
to fold the sound of breath
inside his notes—the bleeding throat,
tongue's last epileptic flutter—
while Mingus thrills the bass
in waves of sound and fail
no microphone can hold.
Drinks tremble like the river
halfway from here to the grave,
pulled by wind or plummet,
cough of strings beneath the hand,
and uptown a tape is waiting
for magnets to say this again,
a teletype is writing a story
for tomorrow's Times—
a body pulled from a river
in Mississippi, with only fingers
for a name. Here
only the drinks are listening
as Ervin rises, ghosting Handy's lead,
and even they cannot hear
how the rivers heal their quiet,
how they fill their scars so perfectly
that remember feels like forget.
Then the breath is gone.
The wood hums a moment longer,
and each surface smoothes
till the glasses and the waters
are glass again and ready
to catch each clap,
each note that falls.

Jake Adam York, "Sensitivity" from Persons Unknown. Copyright © 2010 by Jake Adam York.  Reprinted by permission of Southern Illinois University Press.

Source: Persons Unknown (Southern Illinois University Press, 2010)

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Poet Jake Adam York 1972–2012

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Living, Death, Arts & Sciences, Music, Mythology & Folklore, Ghosts & the Supernatural, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity

Biography

Poet and teacher Jake Adam York was born in Florida and raised in Alabama, the son of a steelworker and a history teacher. He earned degrees from Auburn University and Cornell, and was an associate professor at the University of Colorado-Denver. His books of poetry include Murder Ballads (2005), which won the Elixir Press Poetry Prize; A Murmuration of Starlings (2008), winner of the Colorado Book Award in Poetry; and Persons . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Arts & Sciences, Music, Mythology & Folklore, Ghosts & the Supernatural, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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