So What; Po-pomo; On the Hunt
By: Dave Jilk
Evening breezes dab the deck and
whisper warm greetings to my cheeks;
a faraway horse chortles over cool
standards of the Jimmy Cobb Quartet.
Jimmy passed away the other day.
He was ninety-one,
still a swinging drummer,
never a showboat,
didn’t do smack,
accompanied the greats
and was one of them.
At length the album ends;
just after, it’s a jam session in birdland:
robins chirp, larks warble,
blackbirds whistle. Frogs in the pond
thrum a cymbal rhythm;
like Cannonball, Miles, and ‘Trane
entering all at once,
a confident chickadee
pipes up “so what” right in tune,
in a key that’s kind of blue –
our turn, Jimmy, we’re remembering you.
Begone! An inchling bristles in these pines
—Wallace Stevens, “Bantams in Pine-Woods”
he and his hoos are back
that ecumenical rooster
pissed about the body-shaming
we had our time
his personal usurps our world
maudlin and muddy
an insufferable sufferer of umber
he earnestly tramples
the oppressive pipsqueaks
On the Hunt
festoons her wrist,
garnished by a bow
of ample vermilion.
A snowy rose graces his lapel.
plunges into shadow;
lips pinch pink
as she plucks his eyes
with a glance.
The hart flees blind and bleeding.
Dave Jilk has self-published two books of poems: Rejuvenilia (2018) and Distilled Moments (2020). His work has appeared in The Avocet: A Journal of Nature Poetry, and won first prize in the Samuel Eells Literary & Educational Foundation graduate competition in both 2017 and 2018.
So What is the opening track on the 1959 Miles Davis album Kind of Blue, the best-selling jazz album of all time and widely considered one of the most influential albums of any genre. Jimmy Cobb is the drummer on that album. My poem “So What” describes with rough fidelity the autobiographical moment that motivated it: shortly after listening to one of Cobb’s later albums, I heard a chickadee’s “fee-bee” song and realized it was the same relative interval as in the central riff of So What.
The coincidence prompted me to learn more about Cobb, and after doing so it became clear that I would make the poem a tribute to him and his contribution to music. Along with more transparent details, the poem alludes to two of his albums and the fact that he played at New York’s famed Birdland jazz club.
But a partially complete poem can pull in its own direction. This one got me thinking about mortality, legacy, and what makes for a good life. Those thoughts are reflected in word choices, line and stanza breaks, the title if read ironically, and an echo of Wallace Stevens.