One grunge rock anthem reveals the connections and disconnections between two brothers.
Smells Like Teen Spirit
It’s the song that made hair smaller and pants bigger,
a pair of power chords strummed then scratched, a solo
plucked as far as the strings would stretch. It’s the song
I wasn’t ready for when, muffled, it broke through
my brother’s bedroom door, the year he left me
for high school and new ideas of cool. You, brother,
who studied MTV, dropped F-bombs and taught me
how to say testicles. Spiked dog collars for concerts
with mosh pits, comic books without spandex.
It’s the song I swore I’d never touch, the fractured beat
between the first two notes, the rhythm that made my 5K
a minute slower than yours despite my longer legs,
happened: summer slipped away and the world changed.
Because of different buses, different uniforms, because of
a new radio station and one five minute song that never
quit so overnight the three years between us became
a gorge. But it was the song that promised punk rock
would be freedom so where’s the Rockwell painting
that shows the boy how to speed up, how to catch
his brother’s shadow, let alone how to pass it? Where’s
the lyric for my awkward growth spurt while you
found girls in bikinis? It’s still the sexiest song
of the decade, the sexiest song about heroin or AIDS
or sex or whatever, how I learned to pick apart words
while you bobbed your head, raised your clenched fist,
and sang along. Perhaps our angst depends on our age group,
but it is the song that still gave me hope right before
it broke my heart and stole my separate heroes,
the song on the radio as you taught me how to drive,
as you fled for college, the song playing in the background
every time I failed to get out of Ohio. The song that came
before Whitman and Ginsberg, the one that’s been stuck
in my head for twenty years. The song with the only words
we still have in common: Oh well, whatever, nevermind.
Interested in submitting poetry to The Good Men Project? Check out our guidelines.
Like The Good Men Project on Facebook
Photo by MHB/Flickr