The Sunday Poem: “By Ear” by Edward A. Dougherty

June 29th, 2024

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The Sunday Poem  is published weekly, and strives to include the poet reading their work.

Edward A. Dougherty reads his poem at its conclusion.

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photo via PickPik

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By Ear
…………for Will

—i—
Stripped down standards
ache the air. Keith Jarrett
with chronic fatigue
recorded “I Got It Bad
(And That Ain’t Good)”
in sessions so short
he sometimes ended
before the song. Imagine,
a lifetime of music
pared down to a verse,
half the chorus.

—ii—
Each note contains more than one,
the string vibrating in half, third, quarter,
each giving us its own overtone.
Set the fork ringing, touch it to wood,
and the whole instrument hums along.

—iii—
Though weary and in pain, Jarrett
opened his Hamburg Steinway
when he could and played
as he could. The knife of time
is sharp and works quickly enough.
But sweetness is its own measure.

—iv—
Like dead reckoning,
which sets a course
from a previous,
known position and so
compounds variables
to run aground,

beware of the Pythagorean
Comma, tuning up
the circle of fifths
to end much higher
than you began.

Beware also the pure tone,
the absolute note
as harmonies do not
adhere to abstract
mathematics.

Tune, instead,
this instrument, these
strings which stretch
octaves as they do.
Tune this room on this day.

—v—
The choral director arrives early,
before the tuner completes her work.

He hangs back, stands in the hall,
listening. A rest between strings:

she moves the mute, listen:
the small click the hammer makes

fitting the peg, listen: how waves
cancel each other then fall in step.

The sound so much more than sound.
He receives it by more than ear.

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Listen to Edward A. Dougherty read his poem

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John van Otterloo

Edward A. Dougherty was raised on the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street,  Bruce Springsteen’s  The Wild, The innocent, and the E Street Shuffle,  and other standards of FM radio, but found his way to Kind of Blue,  Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny, and others when he detoured into classical, acoustic instrumental and other music without lyrics so that he could read and write. He is the author of 11 collections of poetry, including 10048, a poetic history/elegy of the Twin Towers and 9/11. His newest book is Journey Work: Crafting a Life of Poetry & Spirit,  which recounts in essays his journeys as a writer, a peacemaker and a spiritual seeker.

 

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Listen to the 1998 recording of Keith Jarrett performing Duke Ellington’s “I Got It Bad (and That Ain’t Good)”   [Universal Music Group]

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Click here to read previous editions of The Sunday Poem

Click here to read “A Collection of Jazz Poetry – Winter, 2024 Edition”

Click here to read “Ballad,” Lúcia Leão’s winning story in the 65th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest

Click here for information about how to submit your poetry or short fiction

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