Sonny in St. Thomas

(for Sonny Rollins)

Sonny, that sax, your sax is so,
so on when it’s offbeat–
syncopated distance shapes
spaces in the space beyond this beach,

plays beats inside your mind,
as you bend time–
it steps on cracks within the keys
and leans far back.

Then long, longer, even longer riffs
sent smooth into the sky to cut
pale, blue-edged clouds and shake the coconuts,
bend time between the beats.

Where is that beat?
Maybe only you know as
notes fall like water off a cliff and rise,
repeat their drop and scramble up,

Nodding to piano keys side by side, not blue
but fat piano sidewalks full of edge,
seeking round, full brass,
rolling back into the sax.

You are so offbeat, so off,
you play in broken streets,
in sidewalk cracks,
break beats as

long, elastic riffs
stretch and reach smooth, so
smooth up to the clouds,
slice sky like key lime pie.

Maybe only you know this beat that sways me
sideways to silences between the notes,
dancing in St. Thomas sand with edgy crabs
as tones waterfall and rise,

drop, and climb, climb, climb
speak to piano keys
that multiply their attitude,
pull me back, back, back,

stretch rubber bands
of notes on and on, explode
that golden bowl–
your sunny sax–

Stop. Breathe.
So I can breathe.


Whitney Scott works in many areas of the publishing industry. She is an author, editor, book designer and reviewer whose poetry and fiction have been published internationally, earning her professional listings in Contemporary Authors in 1994 and the Directory of American Poets and Fiction Writers in 1989. Her work has appeared in many literary reviews and journals including Wide Open, Pearl, Howling Dog, Obelisk, Independence Review, Art & Understanding, Potomac Review, Amethyst, Kaleidoscope, Tomorrow Magazine, Arts Alive, CQ, After Hours and South Loop Review. She performs her work at colleges, universities and literary venues such as Northwestern University, the University of Illinois, Columbia College, St. Xavier University, Indiana University, Women and Children First Books, The Hot House, Waterstone’s Booksellers, 57th Street Books, Barbara’s Bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Borders Books and Kroch’s & Brentano’s. A Featured Guest Author in the Illinois Authors Series at Chicago’s Harold Washington Library Center, she regularly reviews books for the American Library Association’s Booklist magazine. A member of the Society of Midland Authors, Scott teaches writing at Chicago’s Columbia College. She was awarded the 2009-2010 Writer-in-Residence Grant from Illinois’ Bensenville Community Public Library and has presented seminars on writing at DePaul University, been a featured panelist on writing and social issues at Northwestern University, and taught poetry workshops at the renowned Off-Campus Writers Workshop. Scott led the Writing Workshop at St. Xavier University from 1990 to 1995 and headlined the 1992 Taste of Chicago Writers Conference there. She served on the Printers Row Book Fair planning committee 1994-2004, creating and implementing programs for the third largest book fair in the nation.

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