Two Bones

for Curtis Fuller and Slide Hampton—and their LP, Two Bones,
recorded in 1958 (but not released until 1980)

Throw at least one of them to the dogs.
Ask the birds, their hollow-boned bodies,

what sound the wind makes as it rakes
the recesses of the throat.

How could this ‘58 set have languished like firewood
stacked behind the shed decades without a tarp?

If you walked near a swamp and found a dead possum
full of road salt, would you kiss it or skin it,

using its rough, rain-ached belly as blood meat for a cure?
No, this LP is smooth as silt after a downpour. The slide

of their two trombones moves in and out
like a mudslide of stars tattooing the rings of Saturn

into the tender tendering of the ear.
Curtis—you are a tornado ready to erupt.

Slide—your lava of volcanoes funnels and swirls
through my veins. Two trombones dueling

with what seems to be rain in the gut-wrench of the belly
twenty-two years late. Dueling with Sonny Clark,

suddenly alive again at the keys. No Horse
this time smacking his chin. Collapsing his veins.

George Tucker and Charlie Persip bend the beat.
Laying their own bones like dominoes

or breadcrumbs back to the shack. Yes, throw them both
to the dogs. Throw them all to the dogs. Throw the dogs,

in turn, to the cruel salt-craves of the body
after throwing them bowls of good, nourishing gruel.

Let the birds speak. Let the wind. Let the wind
twenty-two years late. Let the wind speak the bones

of these two men. These two trombone men. Elegant
still against the stilling years. Their bones, now,

still blowing. In and out of the rain. Hollow and true.

George Kalamaras is former Poet Laureate of Indiana (2014– 2016) and Professor Emeritus at Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he taught for thirty-two years. He has published twenty-three collections of poetry, fourteen full-length books and nine chapbooks. His latest book is To Sleep in the Horse’s Belly: My Greek Poets and the Aegean Inside Me, a 300-page chronicle of George’s Greek ancestry—literary, artistic, and familial (Dos Madres Press, 2023).

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