Matt Dube

Interviewing a Rock Band at the Verge

What does it feel like
when everyone in the club is asking

the same question and you know
the answer? When you first played

the riff, did you know right then or did you
have to wait till you heard the mix played back

through the speakers in your car? Was it
something you’d heard in your head always

or did it sound like something new, a door
opening or the ring of money in a collection

plate, the lonesome whine of a dog? Do you even
know how to dance? Do you know what music can do

to a body, when your stomach drops
at the same time the hairs on your neck stand

at attention, skin tight, like you’re ready
to explode? Do you know it before

anyone else, what you’re about to do
to all of us?

Does it ever get boring, holding out
on us? Do you want to just get to it,

to dispense with the formalities, the lead-in
and the build, all the foreplay and dicking

around, just let us have it, what we want, let us
go home, happy? Do you ever want

to hold out on us, to make us work for it,
because we want it, to wait, to teach us

patience? Do you ever wonder what comes next?
Does it feel like a lot of pressure,

thinking not about what you’ve already done
but about what we want from you next? Did

someone once make you feel this?
Did someone tell you there’s a secret

place inside, a cabinet or closet filled
with toys and dishes and old posters, round

buttons with steel pin-backs? Who said you
can come along and upset us, without asking?

Is it just something that’s fun for you or do you
look at us and see someone who needs to

be shaken up and decide for us that’s what
we really need.

Vas ist das?

You ran into it, that certain something
that frustrates people living abroad—

the language a closed door
you’ll knock and knock and on the other side
is everything you want

to understand. At the post office, if you brought parcels
to ship home, the clerk would tell you
Немае, simple enough. Not allowed.
Forbidden, you’d repeat to yourself,
walking home carrying bundles of contraband.

Puzzled on the metro or overnight trains,
accordion buses that curved through neighborhoods,
you tried to sound it out — Sh-ch-oat-say?

What is this? Your first night in Kyiv, the hotel’s
first floor a casino-cum-dance bar-cum
strip club. Sitting in your booth
nursing a beer, you watched couples groove
on a small dancefloor that crept up against
a stripper pole where the dancer didn’t throw herself
around in balletic ellipses. Instead she shimmied
on the dancefloor, brushed against the couples.
Sometimes she stroked a shoulder, sometimes slapped
an ass.

You wondered. Your students wondered, too,
what you wanted to say. Що—Що,
they taught you. What-what was what
you said when you stood on that stoop,
wanting to walk through.

You sounded like a baby,
you thought. Your students asked,
after Olena chirped Dickinson’s mantra,
I’m nobody, who are you, wasn’t her
vocalization precise. How to tell them?
That words could mean
so variously.

Your cleaning lady, Irena, worked
her whole life in an office
before she collected your dirty laundry
because hers was the only washing machine
in the building. Before she came on Wednesdays
you raced to wash dishes, wipe down
countertops, conceal your habits. Some
mornings she came early, knocking on your door,
Алло, Ран Метцу, and what a relief it was,
after six months, to know enough to say
Час, which meant, depending, time,
Right now, or give me a minute. She
Could wait on the other side of the door
To learn which it was.

Matt Dube‘s poetry has appeared in Intersice, Rattle, Event Horizon, and elsewhere. He teaches creative writing and American lit at a small mid-Missouri university, and he reads submissions for the online lit mag Craft.

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