Pat Martino Had a Stroke


I went to the Open Mic Poetry Reading at Dagny’s on March 1st, 2019 and I read this poem, more or less, with a few minor changes. I wrote it that afternoon. Sometimes I need a deadline to force me to put it on paper. This poem is kind of jokey, but it is also based on a true event. I have been thinking of jazz chords and guitar stuff a lot, and the square and triangle shapes of the diminished and augmented chords can be seen if you put the 12 tones in a circle. I have notebooks full of this kind of stuff. I am not sure if strokes are anything to joke about. Just now I read that Luke Perry has died of a stroke. Philip K. Dick had a stroke that he interpreted as a religious vision. My dad also had a stroke, and he couldn’t play his saxophone the way he used to, but still, he recovered from the stroke quicker than other patients, as playing music was therapeutic, it is my belief.

Pat Martino had a stroke

Up until then he’d been a moderately successful Jazz Guitarist
But he awoke from the stroke to discover that he could no longer play guitar.
It was the reversal of the joke where the man awoke from anesthesia.
The doctor assured him the operation had been a complete success.
He’d be back to normal in no time.
“But will I be able to play the piano?” he enquired.
“I don’t see any reason why not,” said the Physician.
“That’s funny . . . because I couldn’t play it before.”

Pat Martino had a stroke

So, anyway, though Pat Martino had completely forgotten how to play the guitar,
He taught himself how to play again–from scratch.
Not only that, his beginner’s mind gave him a fresh perspective.
He began to see music in terms of geometric shapes
That had hitherto been hidden.
The ‘scales’ fell from his eyes. He saw Diminished chords as squares.
Augmented chords formed isosceles triangles.
Minor Seventh chords were trapezoids.

Pat Martino had a stroke

“How did all that mathematical mumbo jumbo
Help his music?” I can hear the skeptics among you grumbling.
Well, he was able to navigate treacherous chord changes
Avoiding the point of diminishing returns and any trapezoids
That might have snared him.

Sometimes the crack
Lets in the light.

Pat Martino had a stroke

It was a stroke of luck, a stroke of genius.
It was the fabled different stroke since he’d awoke a different folk.
Sometimes the breast stroke is not the best stroke,
And an isosceles triangle can be the best augmentation of all.

[The Poet takes out an orchestral triangle and strikes it thusly:]


Christopher R. Craddock © 2019

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