if I didn’t marry the drummer
by Marjorie Maddox

if I didn’t keep weeping mingus,
hang my head till billie buried in me,
till davis done gone and gone again
the miles beyond the bird flew
a rat-tat-tapping trapped in the tree
of me with sticks that trip still
on stretched skin, skid to the tin
roof of blues and bessie
and the beat of hold-me-till-I-don’t-break-into-coltrane
and lena-listen-while-the-love-gone-song
struts its stuff into drum,
into sound and stick shacked-up with max and riff.

can’t sing straight with a voice of vows
through the late-night shift.

IMAGE: “The Drums” by Sharon Cummings. Prints available at

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Because I ended up NOT marrying the drummer, this poem originally was titled “why I didn’t marry the drummer”; however, earlier experiences helped me understand the “if I” of this version of the poem, which is heavily (and obviously) influenced by Jazz and Blues.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sage Graduate Fellow of Cornell University (MFA) and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, Marjorie Maddox has published 11 collections of poetry—including True, False, None of the Above(Poiema Poetry Series); Local News from Someplace Else (Wipf and Stock); Wives’ Tales (forthcoming 2016 Seven Kitchens Press),Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize); and Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award)—the short story collection What She Was Saying (2017 Fomite Press), and over 450 stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. Co-editor of Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (Penn State Press), she also has published two children’s books with several forthcoming. Visit her at