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Epistrophy


The sleeve sighs from the jacket,
          the record from the sleeve.
The needle takes its breath.

I know what's next—
          the horns, the hymns
that spiral back to silence

after the room fills with the sound
          of another room, the sound
of steel as it fills the groove.

Tonight it's Monk's Music, a record
          that begins in evening
and then turns back to twilight.

It pleads, "Abide with Me,"
          and then demurs, "Well,
You Needn't," as dark rewinds.

Halfway back to "Crepuscule,"
          it stops to ask
for another hand, and I have to rise

to turn the record as the room
          remembers the room it used to be.
I have to raise the needle

I couldn't touch, once
          too delicate for my hand,
needle that had to wait

for my father's. He'd stand
          some nights in silence,
smoke his only word, then reach

and take the arm. Or he'd stand
          and take a breath—
sigh of the sleeve in the jacket—

cough the door and be gone.
          Like those movies,
like those nightclub films

where Monk stands from the piano,
          turns his quiet waltz,
then walks off the stand,

twenty, thirty minutes gone,
          the sidemen keeping time
while he works the night shift

at the furnace, I have to wait
          for morning or evening again
to hear the other side,

Monk has to stay
          in his child-red wagon,
while the stars spin through the pines.

Now, I turn the music back,
          turn it over, as light eases
back into the sky. Dad

wakes the blanket, the amp,
          the smell of solder, smell
of oil instead of iron, twilight

instead of twilight. Then
          the room is young again,
the smoke, the silence, the stars,

years away, until dusk
          raises its hands from the keys.
Then the needle gasps,

and I stand. I reach,
          his hand on mine,
and breathe again.


Jake Adam York

Abide
Southern Illinois University Press


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