American Counterculture · American Literature · Anthology · Classic · Collection · Contemporary · Poetry · The Beat Generation · The San Francisco Renaissance

Jack Spicer

When he first brought his music into hell
He was absurdly confident. Even over the noise of the
shapeless fires
And the jukebox groaning of the damned
Some of them would hear him. In the upper world
He had forced the stones to listen.
It wasn’t quite the same. And the people he remembered
Weren’t quite the same either. He began looking at faces
Wondering if all of hell were without music.
He tried an old song but pain
Was screaming on the jukebox and the bright fire
Was pelting away the faces and he heard a voice saying,
“Orpheus!”
He was at the entrance again
And a little three-headed dog was barking at him.
Later he would remember all those dead voices
And call them Eurydice.

— Jack Spicer, “Orpheus in Hell,” My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer. (Wesleyan; 1St Edition edition November 30, 2008)

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