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  • Poem of the Day: John Lennon
    The music was already turning sad,
          those fresh-faced voices singing in a round
                the lie that time could set its needle back

    and play from the beginning. Had you lived
          to eighty, as you’d wished, who knows?—you might
                have broken from the circle of that past

    more ours than yours. Never even sure
          which was the truest color for your hair
                (it changed with each photographer), we claimed

    you for ourselves; called you John and named
          the day you left us (spun out like a reel—
                the last broadcast to prove you’d lived at all)

    an end to hope itself. It isn’t true,
          and worse, does you no justice if we call
                your death the death of anything but you.


    It put you in the headlines once again:
          years after you’d left the band, you joined
                another—of those whose lives, in breaking, link

    all memory with their end. The studio
          of history can tamper with you now,
                as if there’d always been a single track

    chance traveled on, and your discordant voice
          had led us to the final violence.
                Yet like the times when I, a star-crossed fan,

    had catalogued your favorite foods, your views
          on monarchy and war, and gaily clipped
                your quips and daily antics from the news,

    I keep a loving record of your death.
          All the evidence is in—of what,
                and to what end, it’s hard to figure out,

    riddles you might have beat into a song.
          A younger face of yours, a cover shot,
                peered from all the newsstands as if proof

    of some noteworthy thing you’d newly done.

    Mary Jo Salter, “John Lennon” from Henry Purcell in Japan (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984). Copyright © 1984 by Mary Jo Salter. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

    Source: Henry Purcell in Japan(1984)

    Mary Jo Salter

    More poems by this author


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