Elvin Jones at Midnight

There are nights when I have complete control
of the stereo, nights when I can put on Coltrane
without my wife’s face dropping into a frown.

Those nights, I can step to the backdoor
with the inexcusable pleasure of Elvin Jones
harassing the snare with his left hand,

tickling more sound out of his cymbals
than any one limb should be able to get,
and kicking just enough ahead of the beat

to make the whole band chase his time.
There’s an undertone of harmony
in Jones’ kit I know I’ll have to explain

to my sons one day, hopefully in moonlight,
hopefully soon. I’ll load them into the golfcart
with drinks and clubs and a jambox, take them

out onto the ninth green behind our house
and let them loose to do whatever damage they can
out of earshot of their mother. I’ll play

the music for them, tell them it’s the same sound
my blood makes going through my ears, hoping
they’ll listen long enough to understand

before one of them asks me to shut off the noise,
or to put on something with words in it,
before I’ll have to tell them it’s the words
that mess things up sometimes.

Jack Bedell
from his book Call and Response
Texas Review Press, 2009
Used by permission of the poet.

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