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Jack B Bedell

the poet

Jack B Bedell is Professor of English and Co-ordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University, where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. Jack’s poetry has appeared in Southern Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Pidgeonholes, The Shore, Cotton Xenomorph, Okay Donkey, EcoTheo, The Hopper, Terrain and other journals. His latest collection is No Brother, This Storm. Jack was Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017 to 2019.

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the poems

Neighbor Tones

All a musician can do is to get closer to the sources of nature, 
and so feel that he is in communion with the natural laws.

~ John Coltrane ~
00:00 / 01:07

In Coltrane’s circle, all tone
         shares a common ancestor.
The vibrations between F and F#
                      wave in invitation. Tremolos
         whisper desire, not dispute,
and every pitch shares a bit of itself
                       with its neighbor, like electrons
swapped during the intimacies of physics.

Even when scales cannot
         reconcile themselves geometrically,
we can choose to hear them
                       together. We can transpose
        the culture of sound, make room
for the diminished and the supertonic.
                      These connections yearn to be
made, even if our ears resist.

How much of ourselves
        do we leave with each other
taking the same seat on a bench, or 
                      grabbing the same spot on the handrail
         to pull our weight upstairs?
We share the breeze, the noise
                       it carries. The space between us,
never empty, is full of us.

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Summer, Botany Lesson

00:00 / 00:43

No matter how many blossoms I point out
         exploding overhead on our neighborhood walk,

my daughter isn’t buying it. She’s in love
         with the sound of bougainvillea, thinks

the word’s so pretty, there’s no way
         it stands for something real. She believes

I made it up, strung long vowels
         and kissy, soft consonants on a strand

of rhythm to make her giggle. I wish
         I could tell a story that would win

her faith, but learn to let it lie. Some truths
         beg for a fight. Some would rather

echo on branches in crooked light
         while you just walk off holding hands.

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Dusk, Meditation

… like oysters observing the sun through the water,
and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air.
~ Herman Melville ~
00:00 / 00:40

Sometimes the truth hides in the wide open
        of a shorn cane field, and no matter how you stare

its lines will refuse to define themselves. They’ll pulse
        in the dull breeze, and spread like ribbon snakes

across furrows in the dirt until the whole ground
        blends and furls in waves. Squint all you want,

or close the distance on foot. What’s there to see
        won’t shine any brighter. Open yourself

to the field’s expanse like a shell in salt water.
        Purge your questions before they pearl.

Publishing credits

Neighbor Tones: The Cabinet of Heed (Issue 12)

Summer, Botany Lesson: L'Ephemere (Issue VII)

Dusk, Meditation: One (Issue 18)

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