We came from the dumb-struck future stuck
in clock towers and the ghosts of DeLorean cars,
Whitewater and the million-man march,
war criminals in Bosnia, OJ and his glove,
a unabomber’s manifesto in 35,000 words.
We came as prodigies of an accidental world
velvet lipped, fatherless, bathing
ourselves in the anarchy of the image,
cleaning ourselves under the green glow
of its great disintegration,
under the black gleam of mosh pits,
fistfuls of feedback and noise,
where we collected guitar picks
from dead rock stars
and strung them from our necks
like small scraps of scripture.
We came from the fog of subdivisions and cul-de-sacs
where our mothers drank beer from coffee cups,
their eyes lit with the white smoke of their cigarettes
while we went to school in abandoned strip malls
spent our days studying the science of broken exhaust
pipes, history’s landmines, laying our heads on our desks,
slinking our way through the oil spills of our dreams
as third world countries scattered around us,
a paralyzed superman drank from a sippy cup
and god kept o.d.’ing in the dirty bathrooms
of Italian hotel rooms.
We came home at night with X’s on our hands,
knock-kneed and dragging our parents’
passed-out bodies up the stairs at dawn,
their singed lashes fluttering in oblivion, scared
to grow old, scared to grow old, as Hollywood
made films about devil children and we left
our beds unmade, emptied plastic ash trays,
wrote song lyrics on drywall, kicked holes
through the hollowed out doors just to feel pain,
feel something like pain in the utopia
of tri-level homes, squeezing our throats.
We came wearing bonfires in our hair, the sizzle
of matches on our tongues, torn flannels, lipstick
navels, stained with hair dye and mascara,
teetering on the porch railings of mid-November,
legs dangling over the edge like broken
Christmas ornaments as the aroma of hash
sailed from our mouths.
We came in the hundreds, swarming the dark
rooms of run-down clubs, searching for
something like salvation from the back walls
of 2am, listening to a liturgy of burnt voices,
sheathed in lightening
the arm of a guitar
swinging wildly before us
like the broken hand of a compass
the here from the after.
We came feral and undone.
Bright-boned and broken.
We licked each other’s bruises
because it tasted like home,
tasted like black licorice, like smoke
from our mother’s blouses when
we were young enough to remember.
We took it in like communion, took it
until our bodies fell to the floor
a tangle of white crosses littering
the sides of the road, a thousand
wild flowers and weeds, the screams
of trees nesting in our eyes
at 90 miles an hour in a blur.
We came as we were
barefoot and alone
pale thin and touched
didn’t know what to do with us
barely knew what to call us
before we knelt in front of them
bowed our heads
under a white avalanche
and set ourselves on fire.
KELLY MICHELS received her MFA from North Carolina State University. Her work has appeared in Best New Poets 2012, Redivider, Reed Magazine, Nimrod, Ruminate, among others. Her chapbook, Mother and Child with Flowers, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013.