Poems

Kendra DeColo: “I Can’t Stop Thinking about the Room”

Kendra DeColo’s “I Can’t Stop Thinking about the Room” is our next Pushcart Prize nominee. Below DeColo explains John Coltrane’s influence on her poem, which first appeared in the Summer & Fall 2016 issue of Poetry Northwest.

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I love to imagine the rooms in which my favorite artists do their work, the perverse and mundane rituals that ground their labor. When the Paris Review published an article about the house where John Coltrane wrote A Love Supreme, I found myself transfixed by the description of his shag carpet. How it was both magical and domestic. The codeine-purple glow of it infused itself into my imagination and became a part of how I hear his music—otherworldly and rooted among the living. The deep-vein-shimmer-of-a-pigeon’s-feather-mouth-swollen-with-grape-popsicle purple started to seep into my language. I dreamed of sitting in that room, now unoccupied. The poem began as a praise poem for the space that held him—a way to explore the boundary between the galactic and suburban, the holy and the profane, how a room is made sacred by the person who labored inside of it, absorbing, perhaps, resonance from something profoundly ordinary and beautiful as a particular shade of purple, a planet he descended from, coming back to earth. After one “particularly heady five-day spell,” Alice Coltrane described John as “like Moses coming down from the mountain, it was so beautiful. He walked down and there was that joy, that peace in his face, tranquility.”

I Can’t Stop Thinking about the Room

where Coltrane wrote A Love Supreme,
Rain +the second floor carpet

plush and piled as a priest’s
Rain +robe, the color of a roller rink

at midnight when the slow song
Rain +grinds through speakers

and fish scales scatter zodiacs
Rain +of light across the smooth floor,

lovers sweating into each others’
Rain +fists, scissoring their skates

while the arcade machines and tanks
Rain +of neon prizes crackle

and hum, plugged like umbilical cords
Rain +into the deep sockets—

I can’t stop thinking of the ointment
Rain +sheen, lava lamp ovum

pulsing against the cathedral
Rain +of highway sounds

where he wrestled with his angels,
Rain +smeared with ink and ash,

an indigo, almost violent
Rain +shade of purple, smoldering

like a lounge player’s tuxedo,
Rain +the asterisked mouths

of cigarettes burns dim and constellated,
Rain +Draco dragging his stalactite

tail over some half-dead sea—
Rain +cough syrup glow, spoon

held to a bare bulb. If auras exist,
Rain +this is what I choose:

liquor store candescence
Rain +of a confessional booth,

a street wet with voices
Rain +where I walk, holding the swell

of narcotics transmuted
Rain +into testament, holy

itch and resonance
Rain +of footsteps pressed

into the shag, this purple life,
Rain +making a road out of prayer.

Kendra DeColo is the author of My Dinner with Ron Jeremy and Thieves in the Afterlife, selected by Yusef Komunyakaa for the 2013 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Gulf CoastNinth LetterIndiana Review, Verse Daily, and elsewhere. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

photo credit: Rubén RG 002/365 Old outside, Young inside via photopin (license)