Great White by Alan Catlin

They called themselves Great White,
suggesting what?  The man eating
shark from the movie that terrorized
swimmers for a generation, a movie that
took place not far up the coast from where
they were playing, in Warwick at
The Station.  Maybe someone thought
they were The Who, staging an outdoor pyro
show, inside. One that featured stuff that
ignited the ceiling, the walls stuffed
with sound insulating foam, producing
black smoke and flames long before the first
song was through.  Boys in the band must
have thought , “Holy Shit”, were among the
first to boogie out back stage door, blocked
behind them by a bouncer who insisted this door
was for band use only, while many of the onlookers
stood transfixed, stoned, or just plain slow to react.
Headed for the door they came in ,once the lights
went out, power failed, hundreds headed to
the same small space, a table in the way,
so much confusion, and panic just a stampede away.
A hundred dead, burned, trampled, suffocated,
even a member of the band who escaped,
but unwisely, went back inside to save his ax.

All those not coded bars, grandfathered in or
never inspected, in basements with sunken sub-floors
for dancing and only one narrow way in or out,
not even a small window to break.

Or all those makeshift second floor spaces in
warehouses accessed by a ladder, windows
too high to jump from, alleyways strewn with
garbage, wooden structures no one ever used,
tinder and fuel, no sprinklers inside, no extinguishers,
nothing but stuff that burned. Too many heads to count,
capacity never determined, not that anyone followed
an occupancy suggestion.  How many were
spaced on party drugs? hallucinating and drinking
industrial strength cocktails to mellow the groove?
Details matter when people die in places aptly named
Ghost Ship Collective.

And after the burning is done, the ax and the blade
and the jaws of death, that are the instruments that finalized:
just another successful experiment in terror. “It all happened
so fast.” Survivors say.  A foot per second according to
The Great White fire re-creation.  Details matter
when you can’t breathe, when fire bites your ass.

Alan Catlin
Alan Catlin is the poetry editor of His latest books of poetry are American Odyssey from Future Cycle and Last Man Standing from Lummox Press

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