In Memory of John Coltrane

50 years this week since the death of the great Jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. I tried to capture the impact of hearing him in this poem ‘First Jazz’ from my collection How to Bake a Planet (Salmon Poetry 2016)

First Jazz

Coltrane, cool train

taking vinyl track

with swerve

and verve, hip dip

curve of lip, gravity

bending light

with thumb

and fingertip

on moon

reflecting keys –

take a winding scale from

the black bottom

of a southern swamp

up past a levee camp moan

through a blood red foam

to the cold blue gates of Heaven –

levitate a while…

like a humming bird

a back-beat drumming bird

then deviate

on the A Train

pile back on the coal train,

the engine picking up steam

hear that bell ring

tip your high hat

to the blind engineer,

catch the rattlesnake snare…

then a rumble

and a tumble

and a sudden drop


with a blast so low

you go down

into the molten heat

and heartbeat

of this crazy jive,

where two and two

make five

feeling in this

moment only

you are truly