Christian Barter

The Singers I Prefer

The singers I prefer are  the ones

who have to struggle.  Famously,

there is Bob Dylan, and Robert Plant

who might have sung lower but

didn’t.  And now there is this

Beth Orton who seems to be singing

through a wall.  Through a wall?

I would really like to get this

right.  Granted, the perfect voices

on the radio today singing the Ode to Joy

made me cry but I was thinking—

in between the floating, the deep

hunger of dream-memories—of deaf

Beethoven locked in his smelly room,

Beethoven who probably never had

a woman groan his name in the clutch,

scribbling each note at an audience

of clefs and inkwells.  It was after her face

had been scarred in the accident, when

her mouth would only open on one

side, when it tasted of acrid medicines

and something death-like

that I saw for the first time how

beautiful M was, how damn

funny.  If not through a wall, then

through some almost-crippling pain,

the kind that threatens to blot out

all the sweetness, even the bursting through

of a hundred ecstatic voices

in a pickup truck in Bangor, Maine

in a snowstorm, after a long sadness.



“The Singers I Prefer” first appeared in The Georgia Review , Winter 2002.