Sometimes When I Am Listening to Count Basie
by Dante Di Stefano
I think of manifest destiny and broken axe handles. I think of the prairie interred under asphalt in Iowa. I think of banjaxed ferryboats scuttled in the River Styx. I think of Huck Finn gritting his teeth in the sockdolager wind as he lights out for the territories and nothing gets resolved forever. I think of unsettling America as Odysseus tells the cyclops he is “No Man.” I think of Phillis Wheatley in the slave ship’s hold, skilling the dark into a choir she might carry within her ribcage. I think of Walt Whitman hiding a derringer inside the bushiest part of his beard. I think of Emily Dickinson vamping the asphodel in her backyard. I think of the word “hark” hung over Christ’s tomb on Easter Sunday like a tchotchke bought from Cracker Barrel and hung above a boondock kitchen lintel. I think neon, but not Times Square. I think transit, but not Penn Station; there’s no taxis racing across 110th Street, no doughboys returning from the front, no grandma’s Victrola shivering the tea cups. There’s just this one perfect strut about to donnybrook the past, and say: hello old myths, I’m all broad shoulders and sharp elbows. Prepare yourself to flinch.
Dante Di Stefano‘s collection of poetry, Love Is a Stone Endlessly in Flight, is forthcoming from Brighthorse Books. His poetry and essays have appeared in The Writer’s Chronicle, Obsidian, Shenandoah, Brilliant Corners, Iron Horse Literary Review, and elsewhere. He has won the Thayer Fellowship in the Arts, The Red Hen Press Poetry Award, The Crab Orchard Review‘s Special Issue Feature Award in Poetry, and The Ruth Stone Poetry Prize. He lives in Endwell, NY.
Image: “Count Basie and Band, Hamburg, 1974”, from the Heinrich Klaffs Collection