“Gimmie Shelter” by Erinn Batykefer

Erinn Batykefer


It was not the first time my mother threw me out
of the house and cranked the stereo
till the screen door rattled and you could hear the music
down the street. It was June 17th. Scorching.
I was seven and knew how to stay gone—
there was a storm drain at the end of the street
where I’d sit in the silt, dig my fingers
into the warm black tar around the grate and wait
for the music to subside. I expected the Beatles.
But the sound that poured from the windows
was a slow burn samba, the slither of doubled guitar,
and the serrated scrape of a guiro. The storm drain
caught the sound, and it echoed in my chest.
Twenty-five years before, my mother did her hair
in tin can curls and hopped the streetcar
to Westview Danceland where the unknown Stones
covered Buddy Holly and the blues.
Her father was alive then. She wore green jeans
for spite because he’d forbidden blue. I know that now.
I know Danceland burned to the ground and I know
the man who turned up on our porch that day
before my mother threw me out was the love of her life,
that the look he gave me before she turned him away
was the look of a man seeing his own grave.
But at the storm drain, I only knew that the crack
in Merry Clayton’s voice as she screamed rape, murder
was the sound of all my unnamed fury
and the low drone of Keef’s open tuning
was the dread that hung like a coat in my ribcage,
and, oh, children, I knew my mad bull mother
and I sometimes felt the same things,
Let it Bleed played loud enough
to make your ears ring.

from Rattle #60, Summer 2018
Tribute to Athlete Poets


Erinn Batykefer: “There’s something intimate about the physical work of being an athlete, particularly when your sport is rowing. You develop a deep, inarticulate knowledge about your boatmates, their bodies, their motivation, their pain and the way they bear it. The way they breathe, the way they cant their head when they get tired. The way your body compensates for their movements in order to maintain the perfect balance of the boat, and the meditative effect of focusing on a single stroke over and over, in perfect synch with the body in front of you, and the body behind, and thereby the boat. I write in the rhythm of rowing, with the sense that my drive to create, like my body in the boat, is the animal engine of a larger machine. Each vision I have for a poem hinges on the lever of language and tone, image and emotion, and it is not pried into motion alone. I write as I move, as my boatmates move, for my body and the vision are the same.” (web)

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