Johnny One Note

By W. S. Di Piero b. 1945 Read the Q & A

Bobby Hutcherson in Oakland

The mallet strikes but something's off,
and so he hits again, curling that lower lip,
purses his brow, as if this sign, this minor woe,
were speech the vibes might understand,
so when he lifts bluish lids as if wakened
to the desired tone that rings now, it seems,
it sounds, under wraps, a water-ly quaver,
through the club crowd's silence,
as it floats above us like an aerosol
trying to find a new way to escape,
passes through the wall's mortared pores
to reverb in the cool night air of an
unpeopled sidewalk, droning toward tracks
where a passing peopled train sucks up
and winds his finally found, wowed tone
around its wheels, held there by steel heat
one hundred miles, until it reaches the sea,
where wheels and whistle overreach
surging surf the good vibration feels such
desire for, and leaves its tedium
of the round and round, lofting to a sea
that comes and goes but finally simply goes,
as one night, this night, the cool vibes' air
(struck finally in the changed groove of sax
and ecstatic kit) is free, finally free,
to go where we won't hear from it again.

Source: Poetry (March 2008).


This poem originally appeared in the March 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

March 2008
 W. S. Di Piero


W.S. Di Piero was born in 1945 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and earned degrees from St. Joseph’s College and San Francisco State College. A poet, essayist, art critic, and translator, Di Piero has taught at institutions such as Northwestern University, Louisiana State University, and Stanford, where he is professor emeritus of English and on faculty in the prestigious Stegner Poetry Workshop. Elected to the American Academy of . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Music, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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