UNDERGROUND VOICES: POETRY
Under the lights and sweat-soaked haze of the stage
the rock guitarist removes his shirt, reveals
a rehabbed frame that the crowd looks at with curiosity,
as if running inventory in the neighborhood after a riot.
They look for the miniature sewer covers he had opened
in the crook of his arm, unsure if what they were looking at
could really be considered healed. At his worst, a journalist
somehow caught him for a candid conversation
in a small, undecorated Italian apartment, his eyes
the only remnant of the person he was. Face drained of color,
skin pulled taut into the new hollows of his body.
When he reflects on this time, he won’t remember
the interview happening, or how long he had spent
in that apartment with the curtains tight over the windows
creating new shades of dark. In between his searches
for higher highs and trouble with turbulent lows
picture him shirtless out on the balcony, with the veins
in his arms at attention like basic training posture. Then,
cradling the air like it was his paint-chipped sunburst
Fender Stratocaster, conducting the birds, inviting them to be his chorus.
This is the kind of self-destruction that he preferred. It made him feel
like creativity naturally blossomed in his blood, even though his arms
are limp at his side, swaying in the Italian night, catching wind
of fermenting casks from the vineyards. Years later,
long after the interview had reached American television,
now that he regained some weight and a sense of how little control
he had, he takes a guitar in his hands like it were the awkward limbs
of a baby bird. It takes some time for him to get back his chops
but he plucks and bends, lets out a gentle chirp that reminds him
that as long as he’s playing, he’s alive.
Michael Sarnowski earned his MFA in Creative Writing from Vanderbilt University, where he was a recipient of The Academy of American Poets College and University Prize. His poetry has appeared in The Adirondack Review, Foundling Review, The Honey Land Review, The Broken Plate, The South Wing, Tabula Rasa, and in an anthology by Write Bloody Publishing.
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