we're blindfolded by light
we're denied the crowds
we sweat when the music's loudest
we're serious as hell when we play
we sleep with girls who drag
across our chests
every night a dance
we cannot see
every hour a suicide
every minute the nail
every second a heartbeat
everything that means anything has been done by now
when we step from the lights we are made invisible and
as immaculate as specters
we hold deep in our jackets
a swarm of tiny envelopes
that help us to stand on rooftops
and spit and watch it fall
On Vocals and Guitar
I play as fast as I can
I run around the stage
as fast as I can
I wear sunglasses to guard against my own glare
I sing songs about death
and the different ways to acquire it
I tell stories
of how every band needs
at least one more dirty woman
I crone and the lights shake
with the power of my voice
I reach out to my legend
but he stays an arms length away
so I raise that arm and perform
so miraculous a solo
it heals every soul that hears it
and suddenly after so many
it occurs to me that my crowds
that cannot reflect back the music
oiled with sweat
I have given so much I am taken
after the show
people wearing sunglasses gather
under the palms
they are whispering
something that must be said
a thing barely overheard
about how ugly I am
and how I can't sing something
about how I'm no longer
the person I once claimed to be
I'm at the back left of the amps.
Even here girls seek me out.
My loves pound their fists in syncopated riffs.
The bitches could never keep time.
They think I am the thousand-mike-a-night-nova
that will die at twenty-eight.
I want more
but let them think that.
I grind bennies
between my teeth to stay awake.
I sit in shadows on stage and off.
When I can sleep I try to sleep
alone. I keep a yellow bulb
above the drums.
They keep coming back.
Wrapping their legs around me opening their arms and hands
wiping rouge over bruises.
They know what matters
is how fast I play.
They know what I cannot pound isn't real.
At the end of the show
I throw my sticks up
to break the light.
They fall in darkness
through sweating hands.
They clatter like fingers. They lie between the drums
and my lovers' feet.
Where I cannot reach them where everything is.
The Bass Player
I'm the human being of the group.
I actually read music.
And the curtain comes up
and this place
is a questionable place to be.
I sweat in the lights.
I shiver in the wind from the amps.
I thumb-slap the fat bass strings.
I have a fur of callous on my fingertips
and my nails will not bleed.
Lord, they worship me as if I were Christ.
Me, who sees the girl with gentle, thick hands
find a vein in her lovers senseless arm.
Me, who from the bottom of a syringe,
throws my head back
and screams through the throat of a needle.
Me, who knows this is Love.
I scatter my powder in a circle at the beginning of the song.
Thank you for thine protection, Lord.
Thank you for thine consolation.
I hold in my hands
all the crosses
where strings lay on frets.
I cut the strings
with wire cutters
and the music still rises like heat.
This is our language.
You have given us this world, Lord,
but the music is louder
than the words
of a man in pain.
About the author:
Kevin Conder lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and daughter. His poetry has appeared in several literary magazines such as Quiddity, The Pedestal Magazine, North American Review, 2River View, Snow Monkey and The Pacific Review. Among other jobs, he has taught English to a variety of students from China, Yugoslavia and Russia while living in Stockholm, Sweden.
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