“Free As the Rent We Don’t Pay” by Johnny Hobo and the Freight Trains
This song comes from the earliest musical project of Pat the Bunny, an anarcho-punk cult hero from the southern Vermont town where I grew up. It brings me back to my adolescence and its abject contradictions: to the toxic proximity between freedom and excess; between self-hatred and drinking in basements; between loving the body and wanting to leave it. “We can do just what we want / and that’s getting drunk in Vermont.” When the trumpet comes in—like the moon for a werewolf, or like waking to a wolfspider on one’s chest—I think of a poetics (of a life) that is intoxicated, via love or drink or words or song, finding a wild autonomy among the wreckage. I think: is it normal to love punk music more as I get older? I think again: we’ll never get out of this place. José Esteban Muñoz describes punk as a “horizon of possibility.” I want a utopia.
Marty Cain is the author of Kids of the Black Hole (Trembling Pillow Press, 2017), a book-length pastoral elegy about punk rock and southern Vermont. Individual works have appeared (or are forthcoming) in Fence, Action Yes, TAGVVERK, Tarpaulin Sky, Dreginald, and elsewhere. Cain holds an MFA from the University of Mississippi, and is currently pursuing a PhD in English Language and Literature at Cornell University. With the poet Kina Viola, he edits Garden-Door Press.
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