cannot be sung. not really.
A human voice can’t make the sounds:
the hissing of a small town god in tin foil,
bottles breaking in a parking lot,
Johnny’s beater car, its screeching tires.
The wife-beater with the cigarette holes.
The torn jeans stained with paint.
His arms tattooed with roses blooming:
Johnny, looking like the hustler Christ
when he picked me up
and swung me in a circle, laughing.
How he took my hand and pressed it to his smooth face,
clean-shaven after a year in prison.
How I thought,
huh. maybe tonight.
Maybe is a kind of witchcraft;
anyone who loves an addict knows its practice.
But that night in Richmond to my eyes
we were brothers, sailors,
hard-drinking and brave.
Our legs were muscling for space in the wooden booth
of a dive bar and I spent 20 dollars on the jukebox,
and I was proud
to keep rough company,
to be wasted in public, to not have a plan
or a place to stay.
I went to take a piss
while he called up old friends on my phone.
I drew our names in sharpie on the wall.
No heart, no arrow, just our names.
Later, we stumbled 8 blocks
to somebody’s house—
a girl he used to date.
I laid out on the couch and listened
while they fucked in the next room, for hours.
Night-table lamp knocked over, smashed,
the bedframe smack, his whimpering,
a record I could play and play,
and always get a kick,
but you can’t dial that on any radio that I’ve found.
I wish I could explain. His voice.
It sounded like a brick kissing the statue’s face.
The hammer’s one-note song.
It sounded just like everyday disaster.
Just like I imagined that it would with me.
BY SEAN PATRICK MULROY
Born and raised in Southern Virginia, Sean Patrick Mulroy grew up in a house that was built in 1801 and was commandeered by the Union Army during the Civil War to serve as a makeshift hospital. As a boy, Sean loved to peel back the carpets to show where the blood from hasty surgeries on wounded soldiers had stained the wooden floorboards. Now he writes poems. His work has been published or is forthcoming in The Bakery, Assaracus, Rua de Baixo, Network Awesome, Moonshot, Side B, Union Station, Tandem, Frigg, Neon, Best Indie Literature of New England, Flicker and Spark: A Contemporary Queer Anthology of Spoken Word and Poetry, and Ganymede. http://www.thevanishingman.com