Elegy for McCoy Tyner
You died on the knife-edge of pandemic,
the nation spiraling itself out like Trane
soloing an apocalypse of midnight-
intervals over your chords and the note
by note by note burning church any old jazz
number might breathe into the autumn blue.
In fact, you redefined the blue of blue.
When you played you sermonized pandemic.
You summoned Leviticus with your jazz.
Your fingertips salaamed ummahs of Trane.
Every day, you inshallahed on a note.
You dwell now in an endless “‘Round Midnight.”
In all the recent pictures, a midnight
grin that lights your face recalls Chagall-blue
skies with lovers sailing through them, notes
spilling like reveries the horn of Trane
atomized, contagious as pandemic—
your smile, brother—another name for jazz.
True, many people don’t listen to jazz,
but who cares? Those who do, revere midnight,
have by heart all conjugations of Trane,
fathom the quantum mechanics of blue,
and reduce the rhythms of pandemic
into the teardrop of a single note.
That’s the startling thing about music: note
after note, you build an edifice; jazz
starts as a shotgun shack. With pandemic
speed, shack becomes cathedral and midnight
parish seat; you wake an empire of blue
unstuck in eras of illness and Trane
becomes more than a canonized saint, Trane
ghosts the melodies exhaled daily. Note:
your life was a soliloquy of blue.
Your playing on “My Favorite Things”: jazz-
rowboat, the moon’s reflection at midnight
on an ancient river’s waves, pandemic,
this Trane-inspired urge to catch, pandemic,
the glimmer, the shadow-note of midnight
blue, the hope that shapes from the racket, jazz.
Dante Di Stefano is the author of Ill Angels (Etruscan Press, 2019) and Love Is a Stone Endlessly in Flight (Brighthorse Books, 2016). His poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared in American Life in Poetry, Best American Poetry 2018, Poem-a-Day, Prairie Schooner, The Sewanee Review, The Writer’s Chronicle, and elsewhere.Along with María Isabel Álvarez, he co-edited the anthology Misrepresented People: Poetic Responses to Trump’s America (NYQ Books, 2018). He holds a PhD in English Literature from Binghamton University and is the poetry editor for DIALOGIST.