Denis Johnson, “Heat”

It’s beautiful Susan, her hair sticky with gin, / Our Lady of Wet Glass-Rings on the Album Cover, / streaming with hatred in the heat / as the record falls and the snake-band chords begin / to break like terrible news from the Rolling Stones, / and such a last night–full of spheres and zones.

Recently I was teaching a workshop on contemporary sonnets and was reminded of “Heat” by Denis Johnson, which is an amazing fireworks display. It’s one of those sonnets that somehow fits the sonnet form while also feeling both authentically spoken and surprising. This is one of a couple of amazing sentences in the poem. No matter how many times I get to “Our Lady of Wet Glass-Rings on the Album Cover” I’m surprised and more than a little envious. Also: the “snake-band chords”–I’ve never heard that before or since. Johnson captures a person, a moment, and a mood.

2 Responses to “Denis Johnson, “Heat””

  1. Chris

    Gib. DJ’s “Incognito Lounge” is one of my all-time favorites. (My copy is battered, beaten, the binding crumbling and disintegrating.) And “Heat” is a show-stopper in the midst of a hurricane hallucination. I remember first reading this book, on Cape Cod no less, and this poem. More than just a game changer. I life changer.


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