Benjamin Glass is dead. Benjamin Glass is dead,
and even before the news can reach the world,
the world agrees: the worst confuse virtue
with virtuosity. A fact irrelevant now.
All afternoon, across the Midwest states,
the kitchen radio is playing Hoagy Carmichael
and the middle-aged men and women are dancing
a familiar waltz they have almost forgotten,
and the immigrant boys play ball across the street.
They do not yet know Benjamin Glass is dead.
But soon, soon the news will season their mouths
like cracked aspirin and they will prop their glasses
on their wrinkled brows like altars so they can weep
more readily, and they will hear each other speak,
and Hoagy Carmichael, whose lemon voice is deep
and pleasant as an afternoon of ignorant dancing.
The obituary being written by his young wife
in one small corner of one small house in Ohio
will mention his belief that, yes, he'd die on a Tuesday
like today, the muted sun behind a cloud all morning,
the immigrant boys across the street playing ball,
the internet radio set to play the sweet songs
of the great-grandparents who knew what the world
really sounded like in that Edenic shadow.
All afternoon the Midwest shuffled its blank cards
and cut to blank faces, but now it's dealt the swift
loss of its spade, its mascot of the indistinct,
who sought to forestall the future by immersion
in the past. Listen: those boys squealing home
to say, bitterly, Benjamin Glass is dead.
This poem appeared in the December 31, 2012 issue of the magazine.