Andrew Seaman CC
The highway my sister called me on
to say, You should pull over.
A city away, his bones
didn’t call the tune for me
to sing. He’d never hear again,
and wasn’t he the audience?
If we could speak again. He’d reiterate:
there’s one life and it’s absurd.
Impermanence is frozen into memory
by the living. No soul remains
but to become ash. The human spark
snuffed with the pulse. That place
on the highway with my sister
in my ear saying he fell is where my eyes did
on a mound of dirt unadorned by local signs,
formless enough to make any emptiness fair
memorial. But behind it, the mall’s chains,
the relentless emptiness that you find
in every town, no matter
how you try to get away.
All the way to the Basket, I crank “Dusty,”
from Soundgarden’s Down on the Upside, aligning
to the lyric, turning back around. The feel
of an admiring thought: This man’s art, that man’s scope.
Chris Cornell stopped drinking to be more prolific,
so I did too.
Rich rich, he never stopped writing, recording, touring,
until he did, at 52.
Today, at 48, I crush the list, fill my trunk,
and return my cart to spare Shawn extra work.
His tag reads First-Year Employee. In the pandemic,
even as a veteran teacher, it’s my first year too.
Looking closer, I see he’s high-functioning,
but when I thank him, he does not return a word to me.
We are all in our own minds, but I wonder
when a rock star dies in his dressing room
because medicine pulls him where no earthly tether is
enough to hold, isn’t it enough
to live as most of us do, safely
out of reach?
Even after the gritty singer’s death,
his widow and band battle for royalties.
None of them rich enough.
Shawn reminds, as Achilles did, It’s better to be a servant here
on Earth than to be lord of all the lifeless dead, enough
to stay away from the ledge where nothing is enough
not chemicals or the loathing you’re left with,
enough to turn the light off after a day you mostly chose
& be satisfied
to sing again tomorrow.
Max Heinegg has taught English in the Medford Public Schools since 1998. His first book, Good Harbor, won the inaugural Paul Nemser Prize and will be released March 2022 by Lily Poetry Press. As a singer-songwriter, his records can be heard at www.maxheinegg.com
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.