Heavy Metal

The sound bled from his headphones thrash metal: he knelt in a pew, late afternoon sun

Lisa Bickmore

The sound bled from his headphones
thrash metal: he knelt in a pew, late
afternoon sun pouring particolored
and his pallor gleaming: sound blooming
around him, but muffled: I glanced back
at him from a few pews forward; like
Jesus in the paintings of Gethsemane,
his arms open, hands open, looking up: he
was not well, and the music, if you could
call it that, a quiet scream deadened in that
high-ceilinged stone room, a sea, churning


that stops when I halt in the ditch


grass-lined cut between the road north
and the road south, the motor still going


a buzz at the back of the song,
no organ or choir: the boy looked as if
he had not slept, he was sweating,
the music its own cell and him alone in it:

once after mass I found a felled bird
on the plaza north of the church,
halved as if with a sharp, swift knife,
to show where its heart had beat:
looked up, no one but me there to see

the sky lifts away and I am drawn up to it,
I have not slept, but there’s music for driving
when already broken:


if it could be called song: we looked back and
looked away from his percussion, his making
no noise but the uproar at his ear

in which I say something otherbodily, un-
thought, again and again as if it alone might
bind me to myself hurtling away from impact:
the truck I hit two times made of what seems
to me steel, my fender crushed like a paper cup:
I sing I don’t know what words in the capsule
of my headlong car, boundless, until I stop
in the gully, the car humming, my heart


the priest talks on, as if this noise were the same
as the still air, the falling atoms of afternoon light

careening: sun high at its one o’clock traverse,
the car breathes, I hum, check my instruments
to see if I am well: strangers stand beside their cars
wait at the other side to pull me from the wreck.

LISA BICKMORE grew up living all over the United States and in Japan. She is the author of three books of poems: Haste (Signature Books, 1994), flicker, which won the 2014 Antivenom Prize from Elixir Press, and Ephemerist (Red Mountain Press, June 2017).

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