There was an escape plan. The five of you were going to make a break for it–a dead sprint to the West Coast. Berkley. Emo. Punk. Power Pop. Three cars. Ex-girlfriends. New jobs. You were going to be the guy with a steady gig. The stable one, running a set of group homes. Only a year out of college, you turned down a job at JVC writing DVD manuals to make a difference–making about two dollars an hour more than someone at Burger King. Half true. You chose a girl over Philadelphia. You went from the graveyard shift to supervising an apartment complex for the mentally ill. 9 to 5. Salaried enough to afford a flophouse in a questionable part of south Wilkes-Barre. You wanted more than a time clock and were willing to trade comfort for that unnamable other which filled pages, flipped records, and tucked corners of days just outside the expectations of your parents. Now you know that it wasn’t revolution or freedom or even being young. It was decisions based on romantic notions pinned to your chest with a stubbornness devoid of conventional wisdom. Half true.
three chords chase
You were in a warehouse, which a few years later would burn to the ground under questionable circumstances. Your roommate took your computer and your Master Card and created a makeshift studio. Some weekends the warehouse bay was all-ages hardcore matinees–the type Craig Finn spun into listless poetry. Other nights it’s just a place to drink. There was a dj supply store in the old office front. You were tube amps and Zildjian K series cymbals. There was one high school band after another trying to cut demos. You hung microphones from exposed steel. You walked a mile and change from work. That’s where she met you–climbing Northampton Street with a hangover and a packed lunch. There was a green Jeep and days of laundry in the back seat. There were days of refrains and stanzas. There was an escape plan.
box wine lips
devour their young
Heroes named Waits, Weller, and Westerberg. Voices named Chilton, Armstrong, and Mould. Girls named Meagan, Mandy, Jess, and Tess. Girls named Maybe, Never, and Always. Boys in shopping carts. Stray cats on a one way street. The poetry readings and wood paneling. The cocoa-colored shag carpeting and mini fridge in your bedroom. Bands named Bedford, Weston, and Option. Places named Any. Where. But. Here.
walk of shame
mice in a kitchen sink
You never made it to California. By the time you were ready to go, half the crew were already on the return trip–chasing some other brass ring. All cheap metal is magnetic. You too abandoned this plan and your friend near Berklee. He lived in a trailer, sung you songs from a payphone, and came home, eventually. He played in bars and the casino circuit with an 80s cover band. You’re not sure if this was defiance or fear. You misremember the shows you didn’t go to–the parties with mini-mart handgrenades. You revise the answering machine messages and claim to forget why A happened to B. There were other escape plans and late nights of fire-lunged conversation. Big talks you don’t have anymore. You’re not sure if it’s gone or never coming. Plans oxidize like rust and yellow the calendars in boxes you’ve packed just to pack. There was a window in your old bedroom on Dana Street. It led to the roof. You always wanted to climb out on it, get your picture taken like the Let it Be cover–not the Beatles, the other one. The one about the beautiful losers you always secretly wanted to be. You’re not sure if it’s defiance or fear. Instead, you tell yourself you outgrew your friends. You spin a record, take a picture, and hope that apologies or answers will materialize. Half true.
yard sale paperbacks
Jim Warner is the Managing Editor of Quiddity International Literary Journal and Public Radio Program at Benedictine University and the author of two poetry collections Too Bad It’s Poetry and Social Studies (Paper Kite Press). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals including The North American Review, [PANK] Magazine, Midwestern Gothic, New South, and Smartish Pace. Follow him on twitter @whoismisterjim.