By Ryan Seagrist

I used to be into heavy metal.  It was the eighties.  My brother and I stayed up late to watch Headbangers Ball Saturday nights.  We never missed an episode.  It was hosted by Adam Curry then Ricky Rachtman.  They played hair metal, but harder stuff too. Napalm Death, Anthrax, Slayer, Over Kill, Cannibal Corpse.  I was only nine years old.  I couldn’t do anything I wanted to do.  No kids can. My mother wouldn’t even let me grow my hair long.  There were small victories.  When she let me to pick out clothes for myself, I always picked something black. It was the least and also the most I could do.  She told me I should buy something in blue or green, but I hated colors because colors aren’t metal. Metal is the absence of color.

Another thing.  I went to Catholic school.  Not the ideal place for a fledgling metal head to find himself. Catholic school might be the least metal place there is.  There are priests and nuns everywhere.  They looked like penguins.  All of the crucifix’s went right side up.  We wore uniforms, so no one knew I was metal unless I told them I was metal.  We were the same, but Father Mott became suspicious of me.  He caught me and Joey Travisano flashing the devil sign at each other one day.  We had to sit in the principal’s office until school was over.  Then the principal who was a nun came and yelled at us.  Joey cried.  I said, fuck yeah.

She called my parents. They were pissed.  They said I had to stop listening to that ‘acid rock’ music. I had no idea what acid rock was. I guess they meant metal.  I was forced to hide mix tapes under mattresses as if they were porno mags.  I listened to Ozzy in secret after dark on my Sony Walkman.  Bark at the moon.  Diary of a Madman.  My mom got a list of Christian metal bands.  Stryper was on it.  Stryper was a fake metal Christian band.  You can’t be Christian and metal.  It’s not possible.  Stryper sucked.  She bought me one of their cassettes, and I threw it in the trash.  

We lived in the suburbs.  Didn’t worship the devil or party.  These options weren’t available to us.  I wouldn’t even have known how to worship the devil.  It was just about music.  The aesthetic.  Rebellion. We were kids, and anything was better than school and Church.  I hung pictures of Lita Ford up in my room, but hadn’t kissed a girl.  Black leather and fast cars.  Didn’t like girls. I begged my mom to buy me a pair of leather pants. She thought I was crazy.  Black leather, she asked, you’re nuts!  One time, my brother and I put on some of my mom’s makeup, tried to look like Alice Cooper.  School’s out.  Eighteen. My father came in.  We thought we looked amazing.  He was livid.  What the hell is going on here, he asked?  I told him it’s nothing, we’re just being metal.  He made us wash it off.  Screamed about us to our mom.  I watched the trail of black mascara run down the drain, and, eventually, the sink went stark white.  He sent us to bed early.  I dreamt of Jack Daniels and blazing solos.

Ryan Seagrist is a writer, musician, vintage lighter dealer, and occasional recording engineer.  His work has appeared in Coffin Bell, Cyprus Dome, and McSweeney's Internet Tendancy.  He is a 2018 Springing Center Fellow and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.

Elliot Smith

2 Poems