The Amplified World
A poem about Led Zeppelin would begin
with hair, and sweat, hard
light, motion in blur. On the radio
the night is all summer, and starry;
the light falls perfectly slanted upon the road
and nothing rises to check the speeding world.
The boys in the car would drop
their amplified world to know
that hum. Angelic text, that glottal
catch in the throat we call the rising heart—
and somewhere at no distance
someone sings. Faint love is shoved
aside in the wake of each chord:
the world itself hears nothing
so beautiful as this, imperfect and awful.
Bone, blood, muscle, padding of fat, our bodies
compose what ends us; we know
our deaths in the mirror when we look
long enough. That my uncle died
in his underwear, so large
he was fearfully dragged on a sheet
down the stairs, and at his funeral
had wished “Stairway to Heaven” played
was funny to some in my family,
who rolled their eyes, who hid with fans
their breaking faces and homeward
could count the miles but not their grief—
“that drug song” went on forever,
longer even than the flames which made him ash.
Ash in an urn, pounded fine
with something like a rake—
a crematorium hardly burns white enough
to reduce the large dead
to nothing, faint grey scrim once human,
for whom we say await
a new heaven and a new earth,
the obviated body made perfect once more.
A poem about mercy would end
in song, bashful aria of the loner
free and clear. Like water. Like glass.
Like nothing. It’s forgotten skill, art unpracticed.
Host of angels, sing shame
back to us if you exist, and bear the dead
better than we manage: descending
half naked from life, we sing
what we loved while we could,
for as long as it ever lasted. Not forever.
‘The Amplified World” first appeared in Pleiades.