What Rough Beasties, sonnet #2

That’s right. It’s time for the second installment of my Beastie Boys sonnet series.

This poem references the fire that burned down the famous “Paul’s Boutique,” a photo of which is featured on the cover of the Beastie Boys’ second album. The poem also alludes to Yeats’ “Leda and the Swan,” which retells a popular Greek myth: how Zeus took the form of a swan and assaulted a woman named Leda while in flight, then let her drop. Yeats asks whether Leda had enough time to “put on (Zeus’) knowledge with his power/ before the indifferent beak could let her drop.”

The poem gets a little darker than it probably has to. I guess, because of the fire theme, I was thinking of the Hindu myth of Agni and Soma. Agni represents all that burns, and Soma represents all that is burned. Everything in the world is one or the other, if not both. When I eat a bowl of soup, I’m Agni, and the soup is the Soma. But at the same time, I’m Soma, because Time is Agni, eating me. And so on… So, in a sense, we’re all on fire, all the time…

Here’s the poem:

II. High Plains Drifter filtered through Leda and the Swan
(Paul’s Boutique, 1989)

Ash-covered bricks,
              dangling shards—

on the ramble through
              the Lower East Side, I clicked

photo after photo
              of the gutted & charred

boutique. Later, I scroll
              through them like

the CD on repeat
              in my stereo.

In the song, the cop
              pulls the band over

for speeding,
              demanding to know

where the fire is. It’s in
              you, in your lover,

in the road, in the burning
              roof & tower.

From my speakers,
              even the lyrics smolder,

because all the boys can do
              to counter the furnace

of the world is belt out
              this song. Flames may burn us,

door jambs may buckle
              & floorboards boards warp,

but the beat is indifferent.
              They let it drop.

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