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The Show

John Grey


The amps are tall as trucks

and just as powerful.

One brush of a G string

and silence signs its death warrant.

Powerful output. Low distortion.

A frequency range to upset dogs.

A detail as big as sky.

This wall of sound is not designed to coddle ears.

The sound man turns knobs, manipulates levels,

from the back of the hall.

The drummer pounds.

A guitarist skips through riffs.

Scattered roadies, seasoned by life on tour,

crisscross the stage with instruments and wires.

Unbothered by a cymbal crash

reverberating through his head,

one pushes a plug into waiting holes

and grins from tattoo to tattoo.

The singer prances out in purple track suit,

gently dabs a microphone,

mutters “check one-two-three”

a half dozen times or more.

In a cramped musty dressing room,

a girlfriend colors her nails,

a wife rocks a crying baby,

while both shake their heads

at the bass player’s crippling drug habits.

The caterer is laying out finger sandwiches on a table,

complemented by chips and dips.

The manager is already nibbling.

It’s the tastier side of his ten percent.

In a dark storeroom, the bass player sniffs white powder.

He knows the deal.

His insides could turn on him any moment.

But the high won’t leave him alone.

A couple of groupies hang outside the door.

They can’t wait to spread their legs to the music.

The band are like the stars in the heavens

but with hairy armpits and sweaty cologne.

There are countless ways to make them happy.

The lead singer’s practicing his dance steps.

There’s the one where he looks like

he’s trying to mount a wild stallion.

Another where he spins like a globe.

The guitarist figures his Fender is near-enough tuned.

He coughs like a car starting in low temperature.

He exits, sucking on a plectrum like it’s the cigarette

that’ll soon take its place.

The drummer follows,

pissed that his only solo has been cut.

No one’s seen the bassist.

The singer lifts one leg forty five degrees to the other

and almost topples over.

It’s time for him to start preparing his face.

(The show itself)

The drummer falls asleep before 

the after-concert party’s half over.

The singer and his missus are screaming at each other

out on the sidewalk.

The baby won’t quiet down.

Nobody knows where the bassist went,

least of all the woman he came with.

The guitarist entrusts himself

to a venereal disease in each arm.

The roadies unravel on cheap beer.

The manager drinks bourbon from a boot.

The tour ends at four a.m.

with one of the cleaning crew

spitting out the remains of a cigarette,

another skewering the butt with a litter picker.


Playlist song: The Kinks, “The Road”


John Grey is an Australian poet and US resident, recently published in New World Writing, North Dakota Quarterly and Lost Pilots. Latest books, Between Two Fires, Covert and Memory Outside The Head are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in California Quarterly, Seventh Quarry, La Presa and Doubly Mad.


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