"The Singers I Prefer" by Christian Barter

The singers I prefer are the ones
who have to struggle. Famously,
there is Bob Dylan, and Robert Plant
who might have sung lower but
didn’t. And now there is this
Beth Orton who seems to be singing
through a wall. Through a wall?
I would really like to get this
right. Granted, the perfect voices
on the radio today singing the “Ode to Joy”
made me cry but I was thinking—
in between the floating, the deep
hunger of dream-memories—of deaf
Beethoven locked in his smelly room,
Beethoven who probably never had
a woman groan his name in the clutch,
scribbling each note at an audience
of clefs and inkwells. It was after her face
had been scarred in the accident, when
her mouth would only open on one
side, when it tasted of acrid medicines
and something deathlike
that I saw for the first time how
beautiful M was, how damn
funny. If not through a wall, then
through some almost crippling pain,
the kind that threatens to blot out
all the sweetness, even the bursting through
of a hundred ecstatic voices
in a pickup truck in Bangor, Maine,
in a snowstorm, after a long sadness.


—"The Singers I Prefer " from The Singers I Prefer by Christian Barter. Copyright © 2005 by Christian Barter. Used by permission of CavanKerry Press.