Welcome to Not bad!, Talk Vomit’s Sunday morning poetry series. Today, we are featuring one poem by Cleveland poet Matt Dettmer.
The night phoebe bridgers smashed her guitar
I was in a hotel which isn’t pertinent except to say that I wouldn’t have been watching network television otherwise I was as far away from home as I could get because I needed to be away from a hospital from the cold from a sky that was a single thick layer of clouds stretching from November so I drew a line straight south and where it intersected with the ocean was where I drove I was watching saturday night live I remember as a freshman in boarding school we had to go to bed at eleven only ever got to watch the first half hour this was when it kind of meant something I wasn’t sure how much it still meant or was going to mean but phoebe bridgers was playing and I loved boygenius and the thing she did with the guy from bright eyes first she played a song called kyoto and seemed a little nervous maybe because it was the first time in a while she had played on a stage or because maybe snl actually is still kind of a thing.
(Three biggest things that come to mind in order of increasing importance the night ashlee simpson got caught lip syncing the night sinead oconnor ripped up a picture of the pope and the time in ‘94 when vedder started mumbling some neil young lyrics at the end of their song and pulled his jacket back to show his t-shirt with just a K scrawled on the left breast and I don’t know if phoebe was even alive then but I guess I bring it up to say there was a time when playing snl really meant something and it was a big thing to stay up late to watch it.)
Anyway she seemed a little nervous she might have missed a couple chord changes the next song she played started out really soft and then built up and before she started smashing her guitar she backed up from the microphone and started screaming a ragged toothless wail that didn’t harmonize with anything and when she ran out of breath she inhaled again found a way to let it out wilder more discordant than the first time I don’t know where she went to find that sound whether it was as a rock star conquering the stage at snl whether it was as a victim a survivor a witness to all the savagery and death this year but mostly it seemed like she stopped being herself and made a sound for all of us as if released from being locked up and failing to believe there were no surrounding walls we would walk around belting out again and again louder and louder just to revel in the lack of an echo that there was nothing keeping us inside then she brought the body of her guitar down hard toward the stage and the second or third time there were sparks that spat out of the side of the monitor like a firework and she kept swinging her guitar over and over again even as she started running out of strength and didn’t swing as hard she kept bringing it down knowing the song might end but never her will.
Matt Dettmer studied English Literature at Marquette University and then medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina. He is a writer, musician, and physician currently practicing in Cleveland, OH. His work has previously been published in The Harpy Hybrid Review, The Dillydoun Review, and Olney.