Every Sunday I look forward to checking out the poem that is printed in the New York Times Magazine, because it often prompts a poem of my own. I’ve gone several weeks now without being inspired, but then today I read a poem by Geffrey Davis called “What I Mean When I Say Chinook Salmon” (read it here) and I immediately wrote this poem:
What I Mean When I Say I Love Music
My father held the unspoken version
of how to be a musician. This is how we practice.
This is how we improvise when it’s our turn. He would
stand and play the solo and everyone would applaud.
We knew that sound already, having heard it after dinner,
over and over coming from his bedroom, his practice spot,
a memory of melodies, the tenor of the tenor saxophone,
as it revisits me at times, like at the end of Diana Krall’s version
of “Why Should I Care,” or at a Hall and Oates concert when the
sax player steps forward. I absorbed from my father the knowing
that to be a musician is to have music in your heart, it is collaboration
and occasional solos, it is standing on the shoulders of those who
came before and taught you all you need to know, and mostly
about not being distracted or displaced, but to know that the
only place the music truly resides is in you.