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“Life Should Be Played Loud” by Matthew Foley

“Life Should Be Played Loud”

Some poems don’t sit content
between covers.

This one screamed from the shelf
to be released from its paper cage.

So I placed this poem
on the record player
and let the needle
drop.

This poem was born
with a dying wish:
play
me
LOUD.

A portrait of the poet
at age fourteen…
Parents split the summer
before grade nine.
When two parents divide
into separate one’s,
a child can’t help but feel like a
zero.

This was the math that mattered,
not the equations in Algebra 2.
Though the kid could count,
like counting all the ways he dreamt
of asking out the girl one desk over,
but too self-conscious
about his back sweat after gym class
to go through with any of them.

His head only made sense
when in between headphones,
cause he understood the math of music:
Verse + Chorus + Verse + Chorus = Escape.

Turn up the volume.
This should be played loud.

The posters on his walls
were a shrine to his chosen gods:
Nirvana. Pearl Jam. Jimi Hendrix. The Doors.

The speakers shook nightly
with the heroes of rock.
Drums rattled like thunder,
baselines shook the tectonic plates,
electric guitars plugged straight
into a live wire heart,
and singers screamed this truth in his ear:
that zero in the center of your soul
is just enough space for the sound to break in.

Turn up the volume.
Turn up the sun still shining.
Turn up the lungs still breathing.
Turn up the bones still standing.
Life should be played loud.

His daily day dream
was a stack of amps
in the middle of the homecoming pep rally.
Just him, a guitar, and a mic.
The entire senior class
was a mosh pit just for him,
the varsity cheerleaders
threw their panties on stage,
and even the jocks had to bow down.

But when the bell rang
and broke the spell of his day dream,
he had to face facts:
he couldn’t sing worth shit.
He didn’t even make elementary school chorus,
and they just let you stand in the back
and mouth the words.

But that zero in the center of his soul
was now bursting to the brim:
this voice must be heard
this music must make its way out the throat
spilling the split seams of a family torn in two.

He still thanks the day
he first heard about spoken word,
poets unloading their souls in microphones,
don’t even need the band to play.

Because these floorboards
will be my drum set,
this ribcage my bass line.
I’ll play this pumping heart
like Jimi played a Fender.
I’ll rock this slam
like The Who smashed guitars.
I’ll be a one-man poetic rock band,
playing solo sets of metaphors
over a back beat
of heart break and healing.

Turn up the volume.
Turn up the sun still shining.
Turn up the lungs still breathing.
Turn up the bones still standing.

Life should be played LOUD.