“We Have Got to Change” by King Short Shirt
I heard a poet read once, whose work on the page I’d always considered puckish and jokey. I remember feeling surprised by the sense of abjectness, despair, and loss revealed in the poems simply by the way he read them out loud. I experience a similarly pleasurable incongruity when I listen to “We Have Got to Change” by King Short Shirt. “Paddling to keep your head above water / Holding on to your good name / Sometimes you wonder why bother / When life remains the same” accompanied by up-tempo trumpets and resolutely major chords sends two messages at once to listeners. Yes, protest and dark times, at least by the words alone; but with the entrance of the music, a feeling of taking life in stride and exploring the synonymous possibilities of joy and despair emerges.
Michael Homolka is the author of Antiquity, winner the 2015 Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry from Sarabande Books. His poems have appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, Ploughshares, The Threepenny Review, Antioch Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Agni, and Poetry Daily. A graduate of Bennington College’s MFA program, he currently teaches high school students in New York City.
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