William James

working class poetry // punk rock performance

YOU'RE SIXTEEN & YOU'VE JUST COME HOME FROM YOUR FIRST HARDCORE SHOW

& the shirt you bought from a band you never heard before
tonight is draping over your shoulders like some tired flag,
& you're covered in sweat that's both yours & not yours,

a wave of shared exertion crashing down which feels like baptism,
like first communion, like you're sixteen & everything is a mystery,
or a mistake, & a stranger kicked you in the face tonight

until everything all made sense all at once & now your jaw
is a stiff bruise & you feel every single one of your teeth
which is magic because it hurts but not the way it hurt

when the locker door dug into your spine, not like your father's
belt buckle screaming through the air & you're bleeding, yes,
but not like you did when the pocket knife slipped into your arm

on purpose, more like the slow holy stain of the eucharist,
more like being washed clean & you're sixteen, always terrified
of damnation because the preacher man says christ is coming back

with murder in his eyes, & you are filled with a million different sins,
not washed in the blood of the lamb, you're unclean & terrified
that you will burn in hell forever, in flame & sulfur, swallow brimstone

like you're so fucking scared of the choking, but you're sixteen
& you've just come home from the first of what you know will be
many, many hardcore shows, & a stranger kicked you in the face

so hard salvation burst from your nose like you were a broken fountain,
& there you were all bathed in red, in all that pouring glory, hallelujah,
& you know that you're as holy as heaven ever intended you to be.

 

 

 

[originally published in The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society]

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