Matthew Johnson

The Divine Comedy as Jazz Piece

Love which quickly takes a gentle heart, took him for my fair shape.
Love which does not allow not to love back, took me for him.
Love lead us to one single death
(vv. 103-105, Canto V, Inferno)

I was preparing to make my exit from Heaven back to Earth,
And it was late March, so the lounge had transitioned
To their hot jazz band after playing the cool for months.
On my way to the door, I noticed that the occupants of the Spheres
In a realm of broken time, were doing things I wish I could do for all my life,
Tapping their feet and chewing their gum to the beat of the band
And whispering kind things in each other’s ears, like being in love.
Just as I was leaving, Beatrice stopped me to share a few more nuggets;
Love is for eternity, and while jazz doesn’t fix the world, it really helps.
I wouldn’t see her again for a long time,
And after I was let out, I looked into the midnight sky,
And clustered like Manhattan and shining like a candelabra, were the stars…
Matthew Johnson
is the author of Shadow Folks and Soul Songs (Kelsay Books) and Far from New York State (New York Quarterly Press). He has a forthcoming chapbook scheduled for a late 2024 release through Finishing Line Press. His work has appeared in Maryland Literary Review, Northern New England Review, Roanoke Review, South Florida Poetry Journal, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and elsewhere. A Sundress Publications Residency recipient and a multi-time Best of the Net nominee, Matthew is currently the managing editor of The Portrait of New England and the poetry editor of The Twin Bill. His website is

To discover more content exclusive to our print and digital editions, subscribe here to receive a copy of The London Magazine to your door every two months, while also enjoying full access to our extensive digital archive of essays, literary journalism, fiction and poetry.

Dearest reader! Our newsletter!

Sign up to our newsletter for the latest content, freebies, news and competition updates, right to your inbox. From the oldest literary periodical in the UK.

You can unsubscribe any time by clicking the link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or directly on Find our privacy policies and terms of use at the bottom of our website.