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August 12, 2016 | Poetry

Runnin' With the Devil

W. Todd Kaneko

Runnin' With the Devil photo

 

Welcome to the Jungle

after Guns N Roses


The night begins with a harpy’s cry, heavy
mascara and fanged gauntlets, metal
rain jagged through brackish skies,

the way as a teenager, you begin to understand
that certain places are not for you—

a smoky tavern where a dude can lose
an eye for the wrong girl, a bordello
of needles and a cracked telescope,
a distant planet where dusky carnival
tents disintegrate into the ether,

and that house where your mother sits
knitting your father a dreadful sweater
for Christmas—there are no real situations
but this maelstrom beneath your breastbone.

The last words you will hear in this world
will be a lie, but when you’re high, you never
consider how scary Paradise can be
to snakes, how Pluto is the perfect home
for a wraith with nothing tethering it

to Earth, how nothing is dangerous
for the dead but the threat of being alive
once more. Don’t worry about where you are.
Nothing can ever bring you down.
 

Bang Your Head

  after Quiet Riot


Every time you hear that song, you find yourself
frenzied for the hive, for the hatchet throwing
sparks off your brow. Your mother asks why
you thrash your head back and forth—
it’s because there is no such thing as crazy
when there are no rules for a boy to follow,
no witnesses to the matches and razor blades
in his pockets. You with your long hair
and oblivious swagger through a parking lot.
You with your tender heart in the shape of a fist—
your teachers ask where your homework is,
where your parents are. To understand the world
everytime you hear that song, the body
must quiver along with the tremolo. The law
is nothing to a boy who doesn’t know the limits
of his body. It can be a forest fire to the flammable,
a fountain of blood to the knife. Your mother asks
what is wrong with you, what you want to do
with your life—throw your head forward
at all the questions people ask, at the abyss
threatening to swallow you whole every day.
Whip your head back to look at the stars,
at the distant worlds you would rather inhabit.
Back and forth, as many times as you can
until your forehead breaks the world into pieces.

 

Runnin' With The Devil

after Van Halen

This is the sound a man makes
when he is excited.
                                          This is the only sound—
                                                                  Oh yeah—
a guitar’s jubilant eruption
                                          where a man learns

a bottle of whiskey and a girl
can’t really cure anything
                                                                   I’m running
because there is no such thing
as a simple life, only poverty—
                                           there are dark places
where we can listen to records
backwards for concealed messages.
                                           The Devil says
                                                                   Oooh oooh—
a drunken prayer, whoops
for a fast car, a flash of highway
striping away from a dusky shack
where only the mice know
                                            there is no sound.
                                                                   Hold on
where there is every chance
for a snapped neck, no danger
                                            except for false promises
disguised as a marriage
license, a half-tank of gas,                         Wooooo
a vacant dance floor
if you know how to
                                            listen to the music—
                                                                   Oh god, I’m running.
 

image: Aaron Burch


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