Ratt on the Radio

My black scapular bounces on my lap, an apron really, front and back. I’m tapping my Birks to the rrawr rwah rrwahr of fuzzed out guitar, bass drum and snare, cymbal crash. I knew right from the beginning I would end up my own man, and still am deep down inside this tunic cinched by flat leather, the hood. My graying tonsure’s updated to crew.  Because Vat II was meant to give us new leases, new leashes, free-wheeling faith in what? Round and round, with love we’ll find a way.

The 405 clogs each day about now. Squeeze in a prayer. Lately we’re free to enjoy the lines and boxes of lay vocation, Just give it time. I remember the line about meeting on the street, tightening belts to abuse ourselves. Us. Of course the long hairs didn’t write the song, but tell me cock rock won’t inspire a monk-to-be. I was twenty-three like them, just out of state college, looking for something that year Orwell foretold Big Brother’s eyes, his state persecution, cloister, panopticon, selfish love forbidden, all thoughts confessed.Tell me that became my life at the abbey up from Hollywood on the 405, round the woods, along the stream, just a house really. Meals, prayer, and real deeds. Tell me, folks, deep down inside your retooled Humvees, that I keep honey bees, that I eat radishes without oil, that I flagellate desire until it drips like a nectar from my pores, that I rub dirt in my crotch and scream myself hoarse in the garden of betrayal.

What is it about this song? Black leather bulge—my friends knew he stuffed his pants with socks because we did too—that music video of shocked parents transfigured into the snooty class, rats on the salver. But the lyrics make no sense under the microscope of duty so I joined up with Uncle Benedict. I’ve always been part of something larger.

Lately irreverence may be vented in an air-conditioned commute, traffic jams only serving to secure the holy tighter. All these punks from the seventies teasing their hair under Ronnie’s Star Wars lights, rouging cheek hollows and dangling lace. No generation knows what it’s doing. I cut my hair, late or early, too young for Woodstock, for what it’s worth. So by chance this song, that year, this year, trapped in a Civic like a human bat. Keep looking, sister.  I’m going round and round, and I can’t change the station.


Peter Grimes is an assistant professor of English at Dickinson State University, where he directs the creative writing emphasis. His fiction has appeared in journals such as Narrative, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Mississippi Review, and Sycamore Review. He has a story forthcoming in Fiction International.