poem with a chorus by jawbreaker
matt hart



—for Sydney Rains

The word is pain,
and the world is pain,
but the sun on our skin
is enormous and light.
I went out running
this morning, the way
I always do, awkwardly
with lightning. And
at some point I thought
about the song
“Chesterfield King”
by Jawbreaker, which is
a punk rock conversation
poem in the romantic
tradition, if ever one existed
after Coleridge and Wordsworth
made it a thing, then abandoned it.
The chorus goes,
“I took my car and drove it
down the hill by your house—
I drove so fast. The wind
it couldn’t cool me down,
so I turned it around
and came back up.
You were waiting
on your steps, steam
showing off your breath
and water in your eyes.
We pulled each other into one,
parkas clinging on the lawn
and kissed right there.”
The stanza breaks are mine.
I don’t know why
I thought about that
then, or why I’m thinking
about it now, except that
it’s a song you should know
if you don’t already, and it has
a fragility to it, a vulnerability in its lion-
flaming, punk rock heart that
reminds me of your poems, and how
longing never leaves us as long as
we live, which is lucky,
and even better, I’m suddenly
struck by the image of a rowboat
on the sunset horizon
with one lonely figure
rowing into the distance
out to sea, and in this
image, which is really
the world, I’d like to call out
to the figure in the boat,
to the him or the her,
who is probably you or me or
someone just like us, someone
in need, but they’re too far away
to hear me, or I’m too far away
to hear me, and yet,
that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t
scream and scream
to try and get their attention,
because attention connects us
and generates possibilities, and
possibilities are the stitches
that we use to close
the wounds—the ones
that we inflict, and
the ones inflicted on us.
Yeah, the world is pain,
but attention is rich
and connection changes
everything when we allow it
to sing us, the sun
going down so light
and enormous, the pink
and orange waves,
their marvelous chorus.
I took my car and drove it
down the hill by your house—
I drove so fast. You took
your boat and rowed it out
both to listen and mend.
I’m standing here hoping
to get your attention.
Longing for its own sake
is a letter close to heaven.
Longing and words
continue the world.