The Plate

By Anthony Hecht 1923–2004 Anthony Hecht
Now he has silver in him. When sometime
Death shall boil down unnecessary fat
To reach the nub of our identity,
             When in the run of crime
The skull is rifled for the gold in teeth,
And chemistry has eaten from the spine
Superfluous life and vigor, why then he
Will show a richness to be wondered at,
             And shall be thought a mine
Whose claim and stake are stone and floral wreath.

The body burns away, and burning gives
Light to the eye and moisture to the lip
And warmth to our desires, but it burns
             Whatever body lives
Into extinction though it wear a plate
Of armor in it: therefore do we thrive
In fear of fire, in terror of the ship
That carries us to fire. A soldier learns
             To bear the silver weight
Where in his head the fire is most alive.

Source: Poetry (September 2011).

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This poem originally appeared in the September 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

September 2011
 Anthony  Hecht

Biography

One of the leading voices of his generation, Anthony Hecht’s poetry is known for its masterful use of traditional forms and linguistic control. Extraordinarily erudite, Hecht’s verse often features allusions to French literature, Greek myth and tragedy, and English poets and poetry stretching from Wallace Stevens to John Donne. Hecht, who died in 2004, was often described as a “traditionalist.” George P. Elliott contended in the . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, The Body, Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Blank Verse

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