Kweku Abimbola

after Gayelynn McKinney1

Sure, I’ve seen drummers stand
in the middle of a solo

some might even do a lil
spin before cymbaling home

others jus do the classic toss-n-twirl
before ending the set

& yes, Gayelynn stood during her solo
& sure, she did a few stick toss-n-twirls

between fills and paradiddles
but for her final solo of the night she—

mind you, the entire night Gayelynn and the band
had been in the pocket

I’m talking pocket-protected front shirt-pocket
I’m talking like lil dude from across the street lemme hold a dollar-pocket

I’m talking like the torch of sauce that bursts from a freshly microwaved

Gayelynn went up after the bassist
well, not really after, since homie kept his riff

steady allowing Gayelynn to wade into the groove
I’m talking a boom-ta-ta-tata, a ratatatata-ka-boom-boom-tish

after the first cymbal splish of her solo
we were already howling

then she smirked like, y’all have no idea
how I’m finna fabric this air

and crack! she lights a new fill
on the high tom, and allows it to shimmy

down to the low tom, and with the beat
still firmly in hand, she stands, and begins

walking around the drum set, igniting
its rims and casings—

see, we all expected her to return to her seat
and continue going off, but Ayan2 rarely blesses

the beat we expect, and so Gayelynn continues
rhythm-making on the surface of the grand piano

and on the hips of the upright bass, then she
animates the railings that lead from the stage

down to the audience, and continues her time
on the table with the couple on their third date

then the table with the birthday girl
with an undisclosed age

and the next table
and the one after

and when there is too much space between tables
she bends to harvest the floor’s sound potential

like back-of-the-classroom beat-makers who
temper tempo with Ticonderogas

& like Timberland-soled steppers who
homage Sango with heel-thunder

& like ampe3-players who fly sound
& like beat-boxers who sling jabs
and uppercuts from jewel-ladened

& like me, like we, the poets
who through syllable and sequence

offer audible libation to the first drummer, Ayan,
& all the descendants made in the timbre
of this Creator—

oh! we are made to hold time
to hand and unhand it

to loose and lose it
to spring and spin it
to scritch and verb it
and yes—of course,
to play!

1. After a Gayelynn McKinney drum solo performed at Cliff Bell’s Jazz Bar, Detroit in June of 2021
2. Yoruba Orisha of wood and drumming, considered a shared spiritual ancestor for tradtional Yoruba drummers in the cult of Ayan
3. Rhythm-based children’s game in Ghana: clap, clap, jump, jump, shoot!

Born in the Gambia, Kweku Abimbola earned his MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program. He is of Gambian, Ghanaian, Nigerian, and Sierra Leonean descent. Abimbola’s first full-length poetry collection, Saltwater Demands a Psalm, was published by Graywolf Press in 2023 and selected by Tyehimba Jess to receive the Academy of American Poets’ First Book Award. He has worked as a teaching artist for the nonprofit InsideOut Literary Arts in Detroit.   

Founded in 2020, Three Fold is an independent quarterly based in Detroit that presents exploratory points of view on arts, culture, and society in addition to original works in various media, including visual art, literature, film and the performing arts. We solicit and commission contributions from artists, writers, and activists around the world. Three Fold is a publication of Trinosophes Projects, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Three Fold recognizes, supports, and advocates for the sovereignty of Michigan's twelve federally-recognized Indian nations, for historic Indigenous communities in Michigan, for Indigenous individuals and communities who live here now, and for those who were forcibly removed from their Homelands. We operate on occupied territories called Waawiiyaataanong, named by the Anishinaabeg and including the Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibwe (Chippewa), Odawa (Ottawa), and Bodewatomi (Potawatomi) peoples. We hold to commit to Indigenous communities in Waawiiyaataanong, their elders, both past and present, and future generations.