Beat (poem for the drummer)


“For a long time I’ve wanted to turn the sound of the drum into a word, but I’ve been too busy drumming.”

- a conga drummer in Prospect Park



Beat leaves the beatless behind:

Can’t dance?  Get off the floor.

Poems listen as stingily.  The drum, rhyme,

Codes demonic

Like the drunk to his wine.

The drummer is a mummy, listening a thousand years apart

From the parties after the song.


The girls that make lips of feet

Watch the death-face, concentrate,

Of the drummer, and his spasm glance,

Suddenly knows you, his upper wetted lip,

His bones that tighten on his flesh,

His mermaid lobe,

Watch him breath through his neck,

His calves, his short strong Achilles’ heel,

His bee and hummingbird wrist,

The gavel silence he fingers,

His long wood swords, his fetal

Curl when a thousand lips on a cymbal

Lose him, and he has gone too far,

Lost the beat,

And he goes laughing through his wrist

And fingers and he is meeting

The skin of animals with a worn thumb.


He bows a head.   Lost the beat.  But!

Up like cocks to the new girl, and the new girl,

Nipples and new beat.


Three drummers, one on toms-toms

Keeping straight as railroad ties,

The other on a snare Pearl

Ghost-noting like the fumes from a pond,

And a third on a kick, 22-inch thick, skin

That brings death to jazz like the allergic to wool


And they beat, beat, beat

Sound of fall at first, towers made of

Hollow, coconuts, the murmur

Of slapped asses, fields of the foot

On concrete, mangers

Stomped with unmilked cows,

Pews of the religious letting out,

The long blood of insomniac ears,

The pound of ice in warm drinks,

The famed tread of Paul Bunyan,

The girl falling into bed, the phone

Slapping down, the full beer

Of the bar after cheers,

The pimple popping, the sound of cum

Through cock-mouth, all at enormously



And the small curdle of milk

Going bad,

The sound of spit in Jesus hands healing,

The red cones on prohibited streets of New York

Sucking air,

The girl plucking underwear,

Pop and pop –


All drums lick us when we sleep.

Hail to him who can play us

Without hurting.  Hail to the butt-bongo fiesta

Of Howard Stern, where the men played their girls.

Hail to the foot-taps in the gardens of summer,

When men are too nervous to approach the girls.

Hail to the heartbeat heard at four in the morning

After love as violent as murder.