Dear Kurt Cobain:

My wife, Nina, and I danced so hard at the
Memorial Auditorium we had to call in for work
on Friday; I with the achy neck, she with the
cranky knees and toes.

Fuzzy warm vocals gnawed the cables. Guitar
shards poked out the amps. Nina gave you a
nice neighborly wave. You gave us a nod. We
were the rabid squirrels waltzing to “
in the Way,” while everyone else smoked
cigarettes and drank beer from red plastic cups.

This isn’t anything I haven’t told you. You make
me feel the ripped jeans under my khakis, you
know metaphorically discussing it. Polyester
turns to flannel, figurative again. I love it
especially when I’m eating a falafel at lunch.

With you in the headphones, I don’t fret about
juice stains before my next meeting. I channel
your energy and center my torso, to help prod
the diagrams, thumb the clicker, etc.

I sense you, beneath my buttons, leaning on
the shirt-pocket, peeking out the collar.
Nevermind my colleagues with their throat
clears and their overabundant cologne. It’s our
little joke, the peephole.

I hate to be the pooper here. Nina needs help in
the kitchen, and I don’t want her in there. She’s
making hamburgers; they’re pretty tasty. Just a
friendly reminder, you are permanently invited
to a sizzling dinner at our studio apartment.

Now where… I was trying to be the pooper here,
which isn’t easy.

As mentioned in previous correspondence, this
is not a matter of me requiring a stand-in for my
wannabe rebellion, requesting an effigy for
vicarious youth, or needing an almost-middle-
age-crisis icon. It’s more simple, and more
important. You helped me realize how alive I
am, and how alive Nina…

Through this: we shake our rumps while
cooking dinner, just being silly, just being
human. Hopping from cushion to cushion,
plucking air guitar licks out of the air, kicking
stuffed dogs at the fridge.

I crank the volume knob with my toes. This
tends to bend Nina over, and she turns into a
spinning thrashing ballerina. When extra
enthused, I will even leap over the coffee table.

This freaks her out, and me a tad. I’m inclined
to stub my toes on our recliner, just north of the
scallop dishes and fern pots, then tumble
forward. It’s always a rush, playing dead on the

The last time I danced that way, not too long
after the Memorial, I leapt over my attaché case
with a big report stuffed inside because I felt
clogged and torn; I aimed to pluck myself clean
like a huge slimy splinter. Instead, my toes got
caught on the latch and flipped it open. No one
was hurt, just some papers scattering in the
barbecue smoke. A scratch sheet landed on an
egg-white, absorbing the oil to transparency.
That was liberating. If you were present and
had a camera, you would have put it in one of
your music-videos.

Don’t worry, we would not upstage you. We, the
rabid squirrels, would only be a backdrop, and
we’d be satisfied with that. They could
superimpose you, Kurt, over the shot.

It’s my inclination to startle Nina by the stove, a
pretend I’m-fixing-ta-tackle-ya-into-the-taters,
honey. Unquestionably heartfelt, this is a silly
gesture. That’s your music to us – I mean,
respect it, we respect it, but all the flailing and
twirling scrapes away the petty stuff: bills, etc.
The last time, I wasn’t doing anything. Neither
was Nina.

She was leaning against the counter, thumbing
a zine, tapping her toes, waiting for the burgers
to steam. I sat around impersonating a regular
schmoe after work, the sinking-into-the-cushion
routine. It was a really long day that day. I
crossed my legs; the blinds were slit to catch
the last of the sun. I mumbled something about
fireflies later.

Early evening blew the American Dream into
our living room, right into the kitchen. There the
Dream lingered, the barbecue, the breeze, the
placidity between car honks. Gorgeous. You
were our kooky cousin, Kurt, splashing and
wiggling around the room, with your mucous-
blonde feelers out for the nuisances. Blind and
glowing. We glanced, blushed, flashed a little
tooth. I cannot say whether I heard a clink or
not, because that’s a regular part of the
domestic soundtrack, a dish shifting, a dish
scraping. Commonplace stuff.

If I could describe what happened, I could have
prevented it from being something to tell, right?
One minute Nina leaned against the counter,
reading a zine, hamburger smoke curling
behind her.

A knife slipped from the counter. It slid the zine
cover, like a snake, and sunk in her foot. The
handle wiggled, and her mouth widened. There
was a slow moment, we looked at each other,
the knife, then each other. I dove to her toes
and threw the damn thing in the wall above the

We know it’s not your fault. Yet while Nina
whimpered and got sick up our appetizers, and I
gritted my teeth and told 911 this is not a prank,
you went on about your problems. You moaned
and grunted, just oblivious in the speakers.
The fuzz and foam around the speaker holes
and notches might as well have been
confessional-booth screening, mass-produced,
since you didn’t know or care where or to whom
you were purging anymore. It was all about you.
Like you were not really there. I clutched Nina.
All we had was each other.

I stuck the phone between my neck and
shoulder, so I could hug her better. The static in
the receiver shook my eardrum. Nina didn’t lose
a toe, thank heaven. Now I know it’s contrary to
reason, how could you have known, right?

If you had been there, if beyond the
metaphorical speak you experienced what we
did, you could understand our particular thick
sadness. The catalyst for this particular
sadness was: life flowing past our problems
unconcerned. Water under the troubled bridge.
Life flows past while someone you love bleeds
all over the tile.

You just went on about your problems.
Welcome at any other point, these groans
became mockery. Sounds and more sounds,
and no one listening. In a teleconference they
call this a disconnect. Immediacy flickering. Nina
hasn’t been able to dance but one day. It
missed her Achilles.

All three of us want to be understood. Scratch
that – not only understood; appreciated. I am
afraid one of us is going to have a nervous
breakdown, Kurt, if you do not respond soon.
We need to know you are out there.

I don’t want to throw accusations like used and
betrayed. That doesn’t seem fair. We simply
request that you acknowledge our pain, given
how much we acknowledge yours. We ask the
real you to try and comprehend the real us, and
it is not too late. Clearly we haven’t seen all
sides of you. I know you have stomach
problems, but seriously partner, we make some
great burgers.

Your Pal,
Listen to audio version here
(coming soon!)
©2010 Joe Cervelin