girls don’t play drums, anyway

it’s 1983.
karen carpenter raises her spindle-arm high
inside crimson chiffon, crooning
‘wait a minute, wait a minute!’
but the postman will do nothing;
for he stole her vocal chords,
bound her drumming arms,
and extracted her honey-voice
to pad his loneliness.

in 1975, she walked
through a lens flare,
floated over a hazy garden;
translucent deity of video effects,
overlaying heady poppies,
singing soporific concoctions;
strolling across a crimson bridge in flared jeans.
richard was there too, I think
it might have all been a dream.

in 1976, she sung with her arms.
tapped out transcendental rhythms
across eleven neon drum sets,
laid semi-circular on lurid platforms—
first television special, the carpenters, she was
a lightening streak of sound
but john denver was there, too,
satirical, scripted, saying:
‘girls don’t play drums, anyway!’

by 1981, the world wanted to know
where she had been, and richard,
for five long years.
against a peach chat-show couch, ornamental plant,
had she suffered ‘the slimmer’s disease: anorexia nervosa?’ no—
was only ‘pooped,’ she said, rolled her eyes
way back into a recent skull until
the camera cut. and richard said:
‘maybe it’s better to take a pass on the whole thing.’ 

so in 1981, karen carpenter stood
singing angelic, face overcast with perm;
a tiny face, receding,
its ember eyes glowing still,
high up on a tiered stage—a nightmare
at the top of the world, an entombment
of her skeletal shoulders and thighs
in foam padding and blue satin: a lie
so ineffectual
it was hardly disingenuous.

so again, it’s 1983.
a year that should be
like the others, and full
of velveteen vocals, loss and longing;
brother and sister idling in gardens,
or leaning on pianos crooning
pain-studded, easy listening ballads
into a perfect breeze.

but instead, 1983 is the year
that the postman from hell,
improperly exorcised,
is left to worm his way into the heart
of superstar, drum-lord,
karen carpenter
and break it.

About the author
Hebe Kearney is from Christchurch, but now calls Auckland her home. She is a lover of words, a huge history nerd, and an angry leftie. She is currently an Honours student; studying Classics and Ancient History. She dreams of uplifting the marginalised voices of ancient women, and also of punching Socrates. She couldn't stop writing poems if she tried.