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Lay for the Day
10th October

1917: Thelonious Sphere Monk is born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.


Here’s a cone
The piano keys go up it one by one
in a spiral like Mount Purgatory,
the white ones Dante and the black ones Virgil.

Which turns to the cube of a root
that’s hard to get a grand
piano into, though if anyone can…
These tunes sing on a Model T upright.

In time, torsus becomes the term
for a turn from the norm,
for a nonplatonic bagel,
a derailed halo.

This shape has thirty-two faces
and its bars are angled together,
inside or outside,
providing the evidence.

This little finger knew Bird
and this little finger stayed home
and these two thumbs rode with Charlie Christian
and I wish Bud Powell were alive.

Beard of a scholar,
beard of an Ethiopian prince.
Over airman’s shades and invisible smiles,
an astrakhan cap like a furry halo.

John Gibbens,
from The Improvised Version, Vol. 2


The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar