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the one time we couldn’t go see Backtrack in Detroit & the other time we couldn’t either

by Liam Strong

the one time we couldn’t go see Backtrack in Detroit & the other time we couldn’t either

after andrea lianne grabowski

i always wanted to show you how to write a song with your eyes closed & ears plugged. i’m still here, most of the time. i’m tired of measurements, andrea. & not just the imperial measurement system. i mean tired of being in one place at one time & i know, i know it sounds avuncular & nostalgic of me but listen to the goddamn stars above us, andrea. each one scorched phlegm from the mouth of god or whoever we’ve given up on. our leather jackets & back patches aren’t armor when we’re by ourselves. shrapnel wind, bands passing us by with the rest of our twenties, hometowns growing up before we do. i think every poem becomes a novel before we have time to water it. i think there’s a blank flyleaf in every christian punk’s cd collection for a reason. i think we’re probably dying or something like it. i think everyone’s got those, something they’re conjuring distance with, putting a world & a half between us & them until we have nothing left to retreat to.

& then there’s the rhythm section. the worst part. we keep going & going & it feels so mature & so right & we think we’re at the show of our dreams without having to leave our homes. every time we shout THAT’S PUNK ROCK at every little thing. it’s all punk. the minutiae, the fabrics, the bushels of discount used yarn that aren’t enough to make anything. i’m not punk, andrea, i’m no sage of wisdom, i’m no sibling to lost blood. one tiny hometown is too overwhelming, & now maybe we’ve been lied to. maybe there were never any punks, maybe punk never existed, maybe we’re only as punk as our frail bodies can manifest.

what do you think people mean when they say make yourself at home? does every punk deserve the stone porch steps of midwestern gothic hospitality? is every acorn squash a home for other ingredients once the seeds are gutted? we could use these, i’d imagine you saying. i have just the jar for this, you’d alight, chiseling the scrapes of dinner into economical tupperware. there’s something left, something over, something in my head the way a song leeches onto the soffit of my skull. just don’t let god sing back to us, andrea. if god sings, we’re fucked, cuz we always are, cuz it’s punk rock to have a blunt blade at the throat of our hate. don’t let my left arm lop off the right, don’t let the left struggle by itself. we’re both daughters of raw audio & far flung anger. sometimes i need you to just scream at me. sometimes i need you to just burn torches at the ends of my limbs so i’m a candle in every direction but north. look up, andrea. i’m flaming & igniting the stars with my own. it’s my goddamn sky now. i’m flaming & igniting like the fag god made in his image.

& there’s another flame. or it’s a cloud. or it’s pareidolia, it’s erasure, it’s quilts desecrated into webs, it’s the form songs take floating in smoke. there’s a band blowing the front monitors in heaven & i don’t want to chase a dreamless dream anymore. i don’t want to imagine what it was like. to kill the lights, toss away our earplugs, & really listen for once in our lives. to not hear us, ourselves, the lumbering of our pulse. i’m reaching out for a silhouette, some constellation amongst the moshing & the wreckage, something god can’t touch. i’m hoping it’s still you.

Liam Strong (they/them) is a queer neurodivergent cottagecore straight edge punk writer who has earned their B.A. in writing from University of Wisconsin-Superior. They are the author of the chapbook everyone's left the hometown show (Bottlecap Press, 2023). You can find their poetry and essays in Impossible Archetype and Emerald City, among several others. They are most likely gardening and listening to Bitter Truth somewhere in Northern Michigan.

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