Tempus Fugit: Couplets for Stan Getz

The 16 inch slash
from his left nipple

around to his backbone
wouldn’t cripple

his style, but
having his chest muscles cut,

his ribs pried apart
so surgeons could root

through artery & bone: that might.
Still, they collapsed

his lung, steered toward
the fist-sized tumor trapped

between his heart
& spine… Dis here

finado, he liked to say
that year,

though it wasn’t over,
not quite: his side

sewn up, his muscles
relearning how to bind

& flex… No stitch could hope
to withhold the manic

grind of Tempus Fugit,
the frantic

laddering of sixteenths,
but what can you say

when you hear those last
records: the way

every fluid & bottomless
run he blows

tests the seams
of those restrung sinews,

some notes amplified,
while others are muffled, caught

in the hole
between his spine & heart.

Stephen Cramer’s first book of poems, Shiva’s Drum, was selected by Grace Schulman for the National Poetry Series and published in 2004. His second, Tongue & Groove, was published by University of Illinois Press in 2007. His work has appeared in journals such as American Poetry Review, African American Review, Harvard Review, Atlanta Review, Green Mountains Review, and Hayden’s Ferry Review. He’s currently polishing up a third collection of poetry with help from a grant from The Vermont Arts Council. He teaches writing and literature at the University of Vermont and lives with his wife and daughter in Burlington.