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Letter to Springsteen from a Semi-Reluctant Fan

A poem by Sarah Jones.

Dear Mr. Springsteen: Lately I’ve been listening to “I’m on Fire” on loop.
The lyrics are creepy in a Lolita sort of way – did you have Nabokov’s
novel in mind when you scrawled out the lines? AWOLNATION
did a remake of your hit single for the semi-erotic film, Fifty Shades
of Grey. My girlfriend, Felicia, and I saw the film in the Lincoln Square
Theatre on Bellevue Way and 8th with a bunch of middle school kids
who’d crept in with their popcorn and Sour Patch Kids. When actors
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson got naked and busy in the red room,
I wondered how those middle-grade boys masked their woodies
from the bubblegum-scented girls sucking popcorn bits from braces.
Perhaps their iPhone web browsers were already open to pages of vulvas
and penises. Anyway, I find it weirdly symbolic that you recorded this song
in February of 1982, a month after my mom birthed me in the ER.
As soon as Mom popped me out, Dad tore me from the doctor
and ran me out to the waiting room, showing my naked body to the fam.
Dad left when I was in sixth grade, which brings me back to “I’m on Fire”—
I know what it’s like to have grown men swallow you up when dad’s not
around. It’s a kind of terrible astonishment except there’s more pain
than pleasure. Here’s what your male protagonist should have known:
A girl deserted for beer or pot, or cliff diving or dirt bikes leaves
a girl with a deep gash on loop for love. She becomes that freight
train without brakes. So I think it’s pretty shitty that your lyrics focus
on some dude’s potential healing through sex with a fucked up
little girl. Where’s her song? Best of luck, Sarah.

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