“Loud Music” by Stephen Dobyns
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
My stepdaughter and I circle round and round. You see, I like the music loud, the speakers throbbing, jam-packing the room with sound whether Bach or rock and roll, the volume cranked up so each bass notes is like a hand smacking the gut. But my stepdaughter disagrees. She is four and likes the music decorous, pitched below her own voice-that tenuous projection of self. With music blasting, she feels she disappears, is lost within the blare, which in fact I like. But at four what she wants is self-location and uses her voice as a porpoise uses its sonar: to find herself in all this space. If she had a sort of box with a peephole and looked inside, what she'd like to see would be herself standing there in her red pants, jacket, yellow plastic lunch box: a proper subject for serious study. But me, if I raised the same box to my eye, I would wish to find the ocean on one of those days when wind and thick cloud make the water gray and restless as if some creature brooded underneath, a rocky coast with a road along the shore where someone like me was walking and has gone. Loud music does this, it wipes out the ego, leaving turbulent water and winding road, a landscape stripped of people and language- how clear the air becomes, how sharp the colors.
from Cemetery Nights, 1988
Copyright 1988 by Stephen Dobyns.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of Penguin from Cemetery Nights. Copyright 1988 by Stephen Dobyns. For further permissions information, contact Stephen Dobyns.
About the Poet
Stephen Dobyns (1941- ) is the author of over ten poetry collections, including Winter’s Journey (Copper Canyon Press, 2010). Dobyns grew up in New Jersey, Michigan, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, was educated at Shimer College and Wayne State University, and received an MFA from the University of Iowa.
Learn more about Stephen Dobyns at The Poetry Foundation.