Ryan Werner

2012/03/29 Comments Off

On the theme of Secret Life

Oh Lie, I Thought You Were Golden: Courting Neko Case

I: We’re Spinning and I Can’t Stop Looking At Your Eyes

Neko, we’re two halves of a tornado.
We grab each other’s braids like twin sisters
and tug the pretty off our shoulders. Go,
in circles. No one survives this twister.

As soon as we flip the first car over,
the whole town scatters. They’re praying for us
to fall apart. Let them have no quarter.
Let them scream for days in an upturned bus.

If you let go, we’re done for. Don’t let go.
Death’s the only thing you can get for free.
Is your scalp bloody? Mine too. Don’t let go.
Wrap your hands in hair and say victory.

We need each other. I’m stuck. I’m bleeding,
spinning around in a dance you’re leading.

II: . . . and the Crowd Ran Away Covered In Feathers and Feedback

Spinning around in a dance you’re leading,
I’ve become dependent on vertigo,
every breath as heavy breathing,
and every black as the wings of crows.

Make me a fist with your dominant hand
and press your knuckles to my head like knives.
It straightens my sight and starts up the band:
it’s me and what birds that we left alive.

There’s just one chord, but it rings forever.
You’re the only one who can stand it here,
watching dueling feedbacks choke each other.
There isn’t a room that our songs can’t clear.

Nobody’s leaving ‘til ev’ry amp blows.
The band is drunk and you’re ready to go.

III: A Haymaker Away From the End of the World

The band is drunk and you’re ready to go.
We leave. It smells like hominy outside.
We’re sixteen again. Two tramps in the snow,
falling down and rolling when we collide.

It was play, but now you’re punching me hard.
I catch you in the chest with my right fist.
For just a second, I let down my guard,
hear the blood from my nose hit snow and hiss.

I bet civilizations went extinct
when something that does, suddenly doesn’t.
Let’s go back and look. Don’t bother to think.
Watch them trot out their dead by the dozen.

We stand up and turn around. You’re leading,
to a party with some songs worth heeding.

IV: We Always End Up Staying At Home Arguing Over Things We Did In Dreams

To: A party. With: Some songs worth heeding
shoved into our pockets like restless hands.
That’s the invitation we’re repeating
to each other, like we don’t understand.

It’s not like there’s anywhere worth going.
(The graffiti at Gabe’s Oasis? Gone.)
It’s not like there’s anyone worth knowing.
(They don’t dream: they just pass out on your lawn.)

Look. Once, I dreamt that we were in a flood.
You were an attractive librarian
and I was drowning. You mentioned your blood
before you let me go under again.

I’m almost sure you did it for the rush.
You think your blood is much too dangerous.

V: When You Try To Scare Me I Just Say “Ooh la la”

You think your blood is much too dangerous?
I’ve got a heart-attack in my pocket,
veins that pump nothing but bruises and rust:
they say my eyes must be in your sockets.

You could sing through the Acuff-Rose songbook
and not find a tune that scares me enough
to look away when you unhook
your bra and toss it off into the dust.

There’s only a bit of sex in this crown.
Here: the bathroom light makes you monochrome,
out of the shower and looking around
with a towel hanging off your hip-bone.

Your blood tints you pink and then disappears,
but it’s only red and white, salt and fear.

VI: Those Fuckers at IHOP Could Have Just Put Me In a Booth

But it’s only red and white, salt and fear.
Don’t worry, it’s just a nifty last line,
It’s nothing obsessive, nothing severe.
Shit, I was just trying to make a rhyme.

None of this is actually about you.
Every one of these is about me
and how clever I must be to construe
an empty bed into some poetry.

You ever go into a restaurant,
watch them take away all the silverware
except the one for you, like they forgot?
Table for seven, down to half a pair?

So I lied. I want you. I’m weak and flushed.
This home we never had was made for us.

VII: Barreling Down the Boulevard, Lookin’ For the Heart of Saturday Night

This home we never had was made for us:
a place in downtown Minneapolis
where the marquees run thicker than forests.
Their lights kiss the snow and whisper Miss’s.

We get all dressed up and then stay inside,
dance in the living room where we belong,
hitch-step and laugh about hookers and brides,
to prove Tom Waits right and our mothers wrong.

Scratch that. Instead, a farm in Wisconsin.
You still have those two broken pianos?
Put them in the pasture, out in the wind,
and let the rain pluck their strings when it blows.

Oh, the pianos have been drinking, dear.
Shake your shadow sober and bring it here.

VIII: Women With High-Powered Weapons In Your Precious American Underground

Shake your shadow sober and bring it here.
Darken my table with blackness and sweat.
Slur something sordid into my ear
like a baroness with a clarinet.

That melody sounds a bit unsteady,
like the one in that song by your friend Dan,
where everything good is dead already,
walking through rubies like they’re grains of sand.

And we’ve all seen how you brandish a sword:
one handed, calves flexed, your bent little toe
up in an arc I know I’ve seen before.
It’s the greeting of persuasion. Hello.

You say it backwards before you exhale.
For all our turning we can’t catch our tails.

IX: A 1970 Wolf on a 1968 Cougar

For all our turning we can’t catch our tails.
Wolves can be like that when they mate for life,
tracking each other, looking for details:
the scent of your fur, some blood on a knife.

From your hairline to the tip of your nose,
there’s a lupine slope that lowers your eyes
and lines them both up like X’s and O’s:
degrees enough for a hundred Julys.

You’re the only one who’s a wolf, let’s say.
So, I’m a poacher. You have no season,
and you leave my crosshairs in disarray
when instead of teeth you give me reason.

Someday I’ll shoot you and muzzle your snout.
If I could, I’d heat up your bones and shout.

X: Weighing Skin and Silence By the Pound

If I could, I’d heat up your bones and shout
at this winter that buried us in white,
snowed us in with our devotion and doubt,
an urge to purse our lips and kiss the night.

That voice of yours is bigger than us both,
and it moves for miles in this weather.
It migrates like a parrot when it goes:
primary colors, primary feathers.

Everyone’s flesh looks warmer than mine.
Especially yours, fair but thick, stretched taut
across your chest and guts, your skull and spine,
your breath and your blood and your blues: hot.

Let me crawl in your body and inhale.
I bet you’re warmer than fresh death for sale.

XI: Murder Ballad

I bet you’re warmer than fresh death for sale.
Catwalks and railcars and kerosene dreams,
all heating you up and draining you pale.
Head under water, those bubbles are screams.

Dredging up time from deep in the soil:
Letters. A lantern. An old bassinet.
Grandmother’s kettle, brought to a boil.
Head under water, your throat’s getting wet.

I need to know: when you opened the door,
could you feel the water calling your name?
Now you’re learning what an undertow’s for:
a home no one sees for broken old waves.

Head under water, you squirm like a trout.
This isn’t anything to sing about.

XII: Budokan (Sort Of)

This isn’t anything to sing about,
but I wouldn’t stop you if you started.
Look at the things we’ve learned to live without.
We’re endless. We’re the nearly departed.

Your voice is cinnamon and estrogen,
just a bit too powerful to be sweet,
but that can be charming to certain men.
Open up. Let’s compare our crooked teeth.

Start me up a fire and a scandal.
Come on now, Virginian, sing me a tune.
Some Cheap Trick into your hairbrush handle:
Oh southern girls, you got nothin’ to lose.

Feverish and hungry and mostly good,
I heard love ate a man right where he stood.

XIII: Letter From a Sycophant

I heard love ate a man right where he stood,
so only get as close as the distance
of a drum: Crack. Boom. Snare heads stopping wood.
Over and over ‘til you get the hint.

Here’s one: I’ve got a weakness for redheads.
Waitresses. Bass players. Women of risk.
Pull me apart and examine my threads.
Spindles with miles of lives that I missed.

I know some weird things happened here, somewhat:
we ruined a town, you killed me in a dream,
I put you in a watery grave. But,
still, solitude, and not you, is my theme.

Okay. One more, now that I’m understood.
I’m terrified. Are you terrified? Good.

XIV: Bangladesh

I’m terrified. Are you terrified? Good.
We’re the last two tigers in the circus.
Our fur is gilded like sun-withered wood
and we’re too old for anything but trust.

We spend the whole day pacing our cages,
with a feral feeling spinning on top.
We need to act our size and not our ages
if we want the spinning to never stop.

Tonight’s the night. Let’s darken our white chests
with their insides. With their souls. Run ‘til dawn
and then nuzzle back up in nature’s breast.
Sink all your claws into her and hold on.

Never, never let go. Never let go.
Neko, we’re two halves of a tornado.

XV: As Necessary As the Jaws of Powerful Animals

Neko, we’re two halves of a tornado
spinning around in a dance you’re leading.
The band is drunk and you’re ready to go
to a party with some songs worth heeding.

You think your blood is much too dangerous,
but it’s only red and white, salt and fear.
This home we never had was made for us.
Shake your shadow sober and bring it here.

For all our turning we can’t catch our tails.
If I could, I’d heat up your bones and shout:
I bet you’re warmer than fresh death for sale.
This isn’t anything to sing about.

I heard love ate a man right where he stood.
I’m terrified. Are you terrified? Good.

Author Biography:
Ryan Werner is a janitor in the Midwest. He plays guitar and does vocals in the sleaze rock band Legal Fingers and runs the music/literature project Our Band Could Be Your Lit.

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