Jessica Greenbaum

Reading About Keith Jarrett This Morning in the Paper and Ode to the Table of Contents
March 18, 2021 Greenbaum Jessica

Reading About Keith Jarrett This Morning in the Paper


how he probably won’t play in public again
because of two strokes
he suffered
I remembered your Boston College dorm room
probably 1978
when you played
Live at Koln for me
and we lay next to each other in the twilight and listened
and we looked at the album cover for a while
and there was a moment
many moments
when you could hear Jarrett
exclaiming . . . or uttering
it was like a secret
language created from
and it was shocking
because I hadn’t ever heard
a trained pianist
play anything other
than the keys
and subsume the self to them in silence
and I remember we just
lay next to each other in the twilight and listened
and we just lay next to each other in the twilight and listened because
we were always
and this music was another thing you taught me
and all the years I knew you
since we were seven
I was learning from you
about adventure about animals or
about climbing over the wall


of the little planetarium on Long Island
or about fishing
for salmon at 2 am on a June night in Talkeetna
because you had moved there
years earlier, and
if you weren’t used to that hazy twilit brightness
which of course I wasn’t
it easily doubled for a dream
and later
I met you at the Grand Canyon
oh, but this
shouldn’t be another list
(because so much else would need to be on it)
I was just remembering
listening to Jarrett with you
after the plane went down
after I named my first child
with whom I was then eight months pregnant
after I gave her a feminine version of your name
for her middle name
after that
jazz pretty much went back
to its very narrow compartment
in my mind
just Jarrett
and the Rampal album you also played for me
and that Coltrane track I found when I was
babysitting in high school
which I didn’t know was famous
but you were always famous to me
and that track
can only mean one thing now
that the shining earth had to be cleaned up
and it’s always going to be
“After the Rain.”


Ode to the Table of Contents


Sometimes I call you
TOC after all these years
even as different
as you are
each time, for instance
in the story books
how your trail
of breadcrumbs
led to the page number
or in a novel
where the future
awaited, on page
78 while I was
still in the baby
pages, maybe 14
and there is something
about your invulnerability
your constancy
you are
like you live
on the other side
of a street
where people
shout and parade
boats sink
a chance encounter
sets off the plot
or one chapter’s
about bees
and the next
about whales
but you are calm
you are
the calm
while the stepfather
hides behind
p. 134
or the raging
fever keeps our heroine
in bed. The midwife
travels to her door
along the stone
path of your
ellipses, and then
disappears into
the fog
between chapter titles
where lesser characters
tarry privately
yet when you
are in service to
poem titles
you only have to hold
a little tray
like a silver dish
for calling cards
for each—
the titles usually
so short—
obviously not Neruda’s!
And this may
shock you
but in my
copy of Selected Poems
of Gwendolyn Brooks

her titles
without any
page numbers
at all!
Like, what:
the publisher
couldn’t afford them?
A nadir
in your line
of work
and I’m surprised
you let it happen
you so proud of
the order
you keep
and your ability
to compartmentalize
even on long
bumpy car rides
where I get
trying to read and
the horizon line
blurs in
the titles
momentarily slide
off their rails
but you snap
them back, sober
as a stop sign
full well
what comes
but then
referring us to
the epilogue
for precisely
it will end.

Jessica Greenbaum is the author of three volumes of poems, a co-editor of the first ever poetry Haggadah, and also of  Tree Lines, an anthology of 21st century American poems. A recipient of awards from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Poetry Society of America, she teaches inside and outside academia including for communities who may have experienced trauma, and in synagogues around the relationship of Jewish text to contemporary poems. Her most recent book, Spilled and Gone, was recognized by The Boston Globe as a best book of the year, 2021.