Eight-Bar Solo

Ray Brown is God,
my father used to say,
and for proof he’d put on records
of Ella, of Oscar, Ray Brown on bass,
my father’s fingers walking the bass lines
in the air with a pop and a thump
and a swing. I learned early how the singer
had to listen to the low notes,
how the bass laid down the rhythm
and the root, how much a man could say
with one blue note.

They’re almost all gone now,
all the cats who knew
how to swing so hard even a white boy
from Kansas caught the syncopation,
learned to play. He’s gone now, too,
my father, gone eight years. Today
when I heard Ray Brown was gone
I put on “Blue Monk,” my fingers
walking the rhythm up and down
in the air, the bass line laying down
everything, the bebop heart of it all.

*Anne Haines’ work has appeared or is forthcoming in a number of literary journals (both in print and online), including Blackbird, Calyx, Cortland Review, and Poetry Midwest. In addition, her work has appeared in anthologies including Poetry from Sojourner: A Feminist Anthology (University of Illinois Press, 2004), and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poem "O" was recently named as one of three Honorable Mention awards in the Thomas Merton Foundation's "Poetry of the Sacred" contest. She lives in Bloomington, Indiana, where she is currently a staff member in the Indiana University Libraries.

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