For a Friend in Mourning

I think of Bill Evans staring at the ghost
of his own haggard grimace, teeth
rotting from bad junk, his reflection
clear as alpine melt, the man exact
hovering beyond a pawnshop window
worn & sallow from the needle,
grieving—this would be ’61, remember—
grieving his bassist Scott LaFaro,
25, obliterated in a car crash, a wonder
whose lines are Exhibit A in the case
for the Holy Spirit, so Evans lost
days in the pawner’s glass, diamonds
& watches, when friends approached
he’d mumble, or sigh, or shrug, or turn
away, back to the aquamarine haze
of himself staring into himself, muttering
I’ll never play again, I’m done, it doesn’t
matter anymore, my trio is finished,
Jesus Christ how do I keep breathing
now it’s over, who he was, what he gave,
when we got cooking, how we heard
each other deeper, went beyond, it can’t
be put into words, you could never
understand his face, the way after gigs
at motels he’d palm-mute strings
so he could run them as I slept & dawns
I’d wake to double-stops ringing in the belly
of his Prescott when he finally laid it down,
that tone, he’d say, that tone, closing
his eyes to trill his fingers on the air.

Adam Tavel is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Green Regalia (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2022). His recent poems appear in North American Review, Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Ninth Letter, The Massachusetts Review, Copper Nickel, and Western Humanities Review, among others. You can find him online at

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