I only got in trouble twice, in school. In seventh grade English class, Mr. Porter, who I idolized as both an excellent teacher and the first openly queer teacher I’d ever had casually moved me to a different seat for talking with a friend. The shame crushing, unprecedented, but to him, it was no big deal. Perhaps more impressively, in fifth grade, I was given a stern talking-to for reading during recess — more specifically, for sneaking books pressed to my stomach under whatever ugly turtleneck I was wearing with an aquamarine-blue puffy windbreaker, keeping them there under awkwardly crossed arms for all of t’fillot, (daily mandatory prayer time), and reading them instead of being social during recess.
It will not shock you to hear that, otherwise, I was an extremely obedient child.
As an adult, I am now a teacher, and I often listen to Kill V. Maim on the way to work in the morning, where I separate students for talking all the time, and where I recently exclaimed, “I’VE WON AT TEACHING,” when a student said, first thing in the morning, “Miss, can we read more today? I’m just craving to get further into this book.” In a strange way, I’m supposed to encourage obedience in my students, when all I want to do is teach them to revel in language and rebel through words.
(I’m that teacher who says on an everyday basis that “capitalism is the root of all evil,” and “gender isn’t real,” or “gender is a social construct.”)
Sung in an aggressively peppy, bright tone, reminiscent of cheerleaders, an idea and its deconstruction, woven together seamlessly. It organizes my thoughts when I’m overthinking everything.
When she sings, You gave up being good when you declared a state of war, it reminds me of Mary Oliver’s wildly different poem “Wild Geese,” which opens with You do not have to be good.
But the part that really gets to me?
Oh, the fire it’s all right
The people touch it
I can’t touch it
Even though it’s mine
I am only ten years older than most of my students, but to them it’s a lifetime. I remember 9/11, and most of them were infants or unborn then. I voluntarily don’t have a Snapchat. And maybe this is the same obedience of my childhood in me, but I feel afraid to acknowledge my own anger — at almost anything — a fear none of my students have.
“Kill V. Maim,” manages to be totally serious and delightfully irreverent. It is a text that defies logic. It is political and it’s fun. Its backstory is pure imagination: The Godfather, vampire-style, with maybe some gender-fluidity thrown in for fun. My most-listened-to song of 2019, according to Spotify, Kill V. Maim is my morning warm-up anthem. When I’m down — which is often — and driving to work as the sun rises, it gives me a girlish voice to sing and scream along with, facing all the frustration, fear, sadness, and anger I fight, head on, with company.
Get ready. This video is a party.
(Song recommendation by Anna Press)