Match Head, a poem by Michael Channing

Match Head

in memory of Michael Roach

by Michael Channing

i’m taking you back
out of this dark and forgetting place
into the daunting glare of the stage lights
the humble request of the blinking OPEN signs
the hobbled-together gong light andy made and charlie broke
under the yellowed backlot bulb of the old new french bar
behind the flicker of a gas station lighter that lingers like a burning wire in your eyes
to where you and i would retreat after shows and plan our war with the world
i staggered dreamless into this city and you shared your fire
you would smoke and drink and i would imbibe second hand
the bright and deathless dreams of a man who refused to learn his limitations
the grand and glorious advice to all the newbies whom the stage took
to play from your heart and make the powerful fear
or just fuck it and have a good time
all the old gang will gather again and we’ll recant all goodbyes
from chicago dc la atlanta wanting nothing to do with the outer world
what draw does any world have without your vapor-filled epistles
when your ragged laugh turned over into cough there was joy unchained
nearly asphyxiating michael was a viable goal
if we couldn’t kill the audience there was always each other

let us dream our dreams from bars and coffee shops out back by the trash cans
out front on the curb as the city sinks behind a scrim of stars
let us jive and jab the hornets nest of normalcy punch black the craven eye of god
tip our dusty hats to the bright burning fools who blazed the path we trip along
let us make the stage a world and stand apart
let us be again like brothers lose the tall talk and let the traffic pass
and the world be what it is
all our dreams have gone to smoke which i will allow if only you could breathe it with me

sit and we'll talk of the old days and pretend we saw the things we say we saw
charlie drinking a pint of guinness in thirteen seconds, unscrewing a searing hot incandescent bulb with his naked fingers and smashing it to the floor
cody without the aid of alcohol leaping onto a table and blasting the gaggling bachelorette party in the back for enjoying something other than us
peter opening the second show of a double-nighter in a voice and cadence he borrowed from the headliner who'd been on stage just half an hour before and getting away with it because every crowd swallows his chemistry
becca owning a busload of already drunken drunkards let loose to grow drunker in a bar and forgetting to tell them she wasn't the closer
john pretending to forget his act and stuttering through five minutes of incomplete phrases and slaying everyone in the room
art finally ditching the creepy trench coat and learning to be better than everyone half his age
a heckler taking his act to the street and get tased into silence to prove there is a heaven
tom accidentally doing your joke and pouring napalm through your veins
the dead nights we went up anyway to do our acts for each other and lean against our own egos
these things need to happen again to mark that they happened at all
because the universe has a habit of forgetting
of closing over the brightest times and glorious failings like a fist around a match head

Our Memories Remind Us

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Chokes and Warbles
Now Available

Chokes and Warbles, a collection of essays and poems by Michael Channing

August 30, 2021