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Bailey Cohen-Vera

Poem Written While Listening to Kamasi Washington's "Change of the Guard"

I suppose joy is a worthwhile thing to discuss. Triumph

makes me nervous. I’m attracted to pride. When speaking

of the metaphysical, obtainment feels more akin to reaching

a destination—maybe that’s why I don’t believe money

is real. It’s time 

to turn now. I’m growing comfortable

in my discomfort. I love jazz 

                            because of how I feel it in my body.

I love closing my eyes and moving. It’s not dancing—don’t 

call it that. I don’t 

                            dance. My mother never taught me 

how. When the horns come in

                                       —that’s where I noticed the absence

of vocals, oh, that’s what those chords were, in the corner, in the

back. But here I go again 

confusing my senses. 

                                       Here I dabble in my imagining 

of a space. Here comes the chorus. The swaying. The 

passion. I don’t think I could ever kill a man

which is why others do it for me. One time I killed a chicken. 

I still think about it. I’m sorry I always jump 

                                                                   to violence; 

it’s just that I’m living in the imperial core. What I’m listening to 

is very beautiful, I promise. It’s just

I’m a failure. It’s just I have a very hard time staying focused


on what’s in front of me, and there’s so much chaos 

in the world and there’s so much   chaos 

in music  and I have so much faith 

in Kamasi’s orchestrations 

that even as the horns belting strains itself into what nearly becomes 

a scream, I trust the longing 

                   in that sound, do you trust me? I am not interested 

in a thesis, or clarity, just the refrain

                                       of rage and whose it is and who 

it is for. It never occurred to me to be mad at my uncle, whose

chicken I killed, until I put the image of the moon in its eye


in a poem, then called that poem Noon. Then the white American 

city-girl said That’s so traumatizing! and for a year I walked 

around calling myself traumatized. I think a song can stay with you like that.

423D53CF-1BA4-40FC-8DA6-CEC4F7F95BBD - Bailey Cohen-Vera.jpg



Bailey Cohen-Vera cares about words. He is a Wiley Birkhofer Fellow in Poetry at NYU. His work can be found on his website,

Bear Review


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