Dark Side of the Juke
I used to spend my time alone in the dark, killing myself with sad songs, recounting every hurt,
the hundred frightful times I said I need you to an empty room. Public sadness scares me, stemming
from the year my mother set up lawn chairs in the graveyard, the year my brother chose silence
with a trigger. I learned sixth-grade math, graveside and mad to be there. The dark humor born in me
the day I realized, staring at my mother’s face, that fighting back tears felt, too, like swallowing bullets.
Call you up in the middle of the night, like a firefly without a light* I smacked the radio off each time
his funeral song came on. The song chosen by the uncle who used to lock me in the basement,
the uncle who replaced my brother’s seat in his gunmetal Camaro with me. We listened to Danzig
at the gas station, Metallica at Tony’s, but never that song. It was ruined by grief. I kept everything
from my parents except the anger. I hated how their sadness found a home in TV jingles, the empty cans of beer left in the sink. In the music I made a bottle to hold the ocean inside me, but then
the bottle broke and made a weapon out of me.
*Runaway Train by Soul Asylum
Mallory Rodenberg lives in Southern Indiana. She is currently an MFA student at Warren Wilson college and her work has previously appeared in Measure and The American Journal of Poetry.