Mallory Rodenberg

Heavy Metal Home

I can’t tell you what it meant.
The rooms,
the music playing inside them.
The linoleum stained
and too expensive to replace.

                                        I can tell you
why the arcade’s arrival changed my life.

Because it was Saturday
and all I needed to run off
was sweat-cured shoes
and a wad of dollars.

Because Dad yelled at the television
and Mom threatened to leave
after dinner every night.

I learned to loathe
the died-down wind,
to love the calendar
thrown in the trash.
Days I saw nothing
but a blank in the mirror
and learned to keep that news
to myself.

Cue to a sky
as endless in its longing
as the radio’s voice
pleading for love, all the while knowing
how love likes
to shut the door behind it.

I preferred the snarl,
the speeding around town
in a rusted car.
Spitting curses,
spinning the dial.

The wind whipping ashes.

The passing around
of someone’s 21st-birthday tequila.


A place to rip up
floorboards, report cards,
anything that might support
the weight of leaving.

Gone are the days
my brother turned up Metallica
while I listened
through the bedroom wall,
but it was after he pulled
the trigger on himself
that I hauled
all his albums to my room.

Stole his change jar to buy
my first book of poems

Mallory Rodenberg

Mallory Rodenberg lives in Southern Indiana where she’s a volunteer facilitator with the Indiana Prison Writers Workshop. The recipient of the 2024 Levis Prize from Friends of Writers, her work has previously appeared in Measure and The American Journal of Poetry.