Tatum Summer

by Tyehimba Jess

The summer I lost you
it was Art Tatum all
the time. His rootworked
notes filling in the spaces
I couldn’t bear, his near-blind
never-fumbling grope,
his cataract visioned
Tenderly beating its head
against my walls, telling me
who I should have been,
how I should have danced,
how the light coming through
the window wanted to sound
like your laughter splaying
closely in my darkness.
He played over and over
ad infinitum on my stereo
in the summer I left you,
a Brooklyn summer
of broken promise. I bumbled
through to fall, spilling bone
-hallowed rags through this brain
trying to screw itself open to a love
that glows like his blinding
-speed runs in his looping,
black and white bravery,
his sacred spill into sunlight
through shadow. My summer
tore open with Tatum’s
fingers moving sound into
just enough dawn to lean
on, angles of twist, pirouettes
of tone I tried to lace
into my broken laughter,
into the song of myself
I found I could only hear
in a key I’d left buried
in the heat of stars
we’d counted together
in an arpeggio
of winter sky.



Poem copyright 2019 by Tyehimba Jess. All rights reserved.

See more poems from Tyehimba Jess debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle:
It’s Tie-EEM-bah,” and “Nap Rates Available.”

Read more in this issue: Interview | Critical Essay | Writing Prompt

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