Metalhead’s Last Day of School
by W. Todd Kaneko
Two hits of acid into second period, Metalhead doesn’t notice the building is on fire until Rockgod stubs his cigarette out on the hood of a Volvo wagon, an ashy smudge for the vice principal to meet when she leaves for home that night. The school has always been on fire, always filled with eager tongues licking past teachers taxidermied for the trophy case, down near the computer classroom where geeks have yet to discover how their power will spread with numbers, through the cafeteria where the dead are consumed with a cowboy cookie, a bowl of Jello. Rockgod proclaims that tomorrow is the first day of what’s left of their fucking lives, because in seven years, he will come home from Iraq with a gimpy leg and a dead girl’s name tattooed across his throat. Metalhead will still not have learned to play guitar, will have forgotten how quiet a boy can smolder until he sees his drunk friend catcalling schoolgirls at the mall—then he will retreat home to write this poem about dead friends and men too dead to be friends. Today, the sky is full of beautiful sonnets, full of promise for a fresh sunrise, full of the acrid tang of brimstone and their goddamn education billowing black against the morning. There are children who will one day be adults. There are children who are disguised as robots disguised as children, bodies constructed of spark and flame and misunderstanding terror for angst, obscenity for cockcrow, for sugar. We are all made of fire, Rockgod says and lights another smoke with his thumb. We can burn for decades. We can too quickly turn to ash.
W. Todd Kaneko is the author of the Dead Wrestler Elegies (Curbside Splendor, 2014). His poems, essays and stories have appeared in Bellingham Review, Los Angeles Review, Barrelhouse, the Normal School, NANO Fiction, the Collagist and many other places. A recipient of fellowships from Kundiman and the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, he co-edits Waxwing magazine and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he teaches at Grand Valley State University.
Image: A Cold Fire, by Ian D. Keating. Used with permission under creative commons.