Elegy For John Coltrane


1964 - 1968


Elegy For John Coltrane
( d. July 17, 1967)


I didn’t know.
How could I have known?
You weren’t feeling well, sure.
You were overweight, maybe.
Hadn’t been playin’ on stage, O.K.


I thought you were woodshedding again.
Were there no more Pharaoh’s
to take you to the source of all your Niles?
No more prayers like "Ascension,"
"Meditations" or "A Love Supreme?"


Say it isn’t true, ‘Trane!
You’re up higher than
the highest span of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Have gone chasin’ Sonny
somewhere past cloud nine.


You’ve combined all
those sheets of sound
into one big OM.
Intone your mantra, John.
Say it isn’t so.


No one could blow like you!
You left Shepp and Gilmore
for the upper stratosphere,
are careening off Ganymede,
sowing your soprano seed.


Blow, ‘Trane, blow!
Say it isn’t so!
I loved you, man!
More when you were
playing beside me –


but I never meant you
to take your final bow –
certainly not off-stage, quietly.
It wasn’t your way!
You should have raged, ‘Trane, raged!


You shred earth’s molecules,
split the last infinitesimal atom
of the last thirty-second note,
were the star cloak of Andromeda!
How could you just leave?


Cirrhosis of the liver?
When you were so clean and pure?
Maybe you were too good for this earth.
Did you only mean to take a peak
beneath the final sheet of sound?


Were you just stepping behind the curtain
for another reed? To find some pristine
washroom where the porcelain gave back
a cleaner sound? Did you find
another interval between the notes?



Richard Stevenson's Miles Davis long poem sequence
Version 1.0  © 1997
Presented: September 10, 1997
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