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Johnny One Note

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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)

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

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Johnny One Note

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