Connecting With T.R. Hummer’s “Cheap Glass Vase at the Jazz Singer’s Grave”

by Mayuni Karr  ·  April 17, 2018

You’ve waited for this day for four years. All of the dreadful 8:00am classes, waiting in long lines in the bookstore, and those nights you spent finishing assignments you could have easily finished beforehand. You still cannot believe you made it to the end. Still, every paper, every study group, every wild Saturday night is part of your story. It molded you into a powerhouse, ready to wrestle with the world.

Whether you’ve reached commencement day, or are steadily pressing forward to that day, we all have a point in our lives when we reach the end. The end of a relationship, the end of a beloved job, or simply the end of another journey in our lives. I questioned my own journey while reading T.R. Hummer’s poem, “Cheap Glass Vase at the Jazz Singer’s Grave,” published in Five Points Vol. 17, No. 2. Hummer’s second line begs the question, “What do I do now…?” In proper context, this question is in regards to a deceased singer’s grave, yet it echoes the question in my own head, “I don’t know, Mayuni. What are you going to do now?”

As I read more of Hummer’s poem, I noticed he illustrates the certainty death brings after one’s death:

“Everything Whiteness concealed will boil to the surface

Under relentless light, the whole story of her life

crushed between two dates.”

Just like this jazz singer, my entire life seems condensed, at the end of this journey. Four years of diligence and determination, all perfectly constrained between my date of enrollment, and my day of commencement. No one will see what it took to get there, or what it takes to move on to a new beginning.

The poem goes on, exposing the lackadaisical attitude the grave diggers have toward this singer’s death. The casual approach toward her death persists, as the grave diggers give way to the mourners, who then make way for the snowfall. The same question echoes once again, “What do I do?” It’s as if there are so many moving parts that it seems impossible to make a move. Where do you begin again? How do you start over? Even though his poem deals with a subject as finite and dreary as death, I still connected to it. Of course, we are not dead yet, but we are, in a sense, burying an old self and making room for a new self to prosper. This journey is ending, but there are many journey’s we will begin and end, again and again. I discovered new truths about my life reading Hummer’s poem, and it only took the death of a jazz singer to open my eyes!

Even though the future is intimidating at times, it’s always worth hearing that promising phrase, “To symbolize the completion of your degree, will each Bachelor’s graduate please move your tassel from the right to the left…”


Mayuni Karr is an English major at GSU with a concentration in Creative Writing who loves writing and watching tons of Classic Hollywood films in her spare time.

Special Thanks to Pixabay for the image above.