my grandfather/ herve/ was a society drummer in hartford 
connecticut in the late 1920s/ i have a glossy photograph of 
him with emil heimberger and his hotel bond orchestra/ the seated men/ posing with their instruments/ stare at the 
camera lens/ dressed in identical tuxedos that throw the 
individuality of their faces into stark relief/ this one with 
fat cheeks/ that one jug-eared/ looking just off the farm/ 
another with absurdly wavy hair/ herve/ at the center/ sits 
behind a bass drum with a waterfall painted on its front/
he seems comfortable with himself/ at home behind his drums/ his chin cleft/ his smile wry

after his death in a fourth of july car crash at age twenty-
four/ my grandmother/ eva/ was inconsolable and remained 
so until/ in her early fifties/ she died of breast cancer/ 
my father/ two at the time of herve’s death/ has only one 
memory of him/ of climbing upstairs to bed while herve 
kissed him good night between each handrail post

my father did not become a drummer/ i did/ in one concert 
i played in a re-creation of the paul whiteman orchestra 
using the original orchestra charts/ at the first rehearsal/ 
during sweet sue just you/ or maybe coquette/ i had a sudden 
recollection/ so long forgotten as to feel like a visitation/ i 
had been told/ as a boy/ that herve had filled in one night 
with the paul whiteman orchestra when/ while passing 
through hartford/ their regular drummer took ill/ it was/ 
the story went/ the highlight of his budding career and a 
sign of glories to come/ now i was reading from the same 
drum part he once did/ had he too chosen to put a tom-tom 
fill here/ or to stress the backbeat there/ or to add choke-
cymbal accents throughout/ had he too held back in the 
penultimate verse to better drive home the last/ in short/ 
had he and i/ at nearly the same age/ made the same story 
from the same part/ then i wondered/ were we all creating 
a story none of us knew we were collaborating on/ did my 
father choose life insurance as his vocation to help others 
through the kind of loss that had left his young mother 
bereft/ and did i choose drumming to resurrect the hopes 
that/ with my grandfather/ had died

but why/ for i never knew herve/ all i knew were the stories