Shut Down Strangers & Hot Rod Angels: Featured Author #12 - Erin Cork

In the weeks leading up to the release date of Shut Down Strangers & Hot Rod Angels, I'll be featuring some of the pieces and authors here on the blog! Our twelfth feature is Erin Cork and her CNF piece "Dao of Bruce."

Erin Cork lives in Missoula, MT. She writes and hikes the local trails with her two rescue mutts in the mornings and works the swing shift as a train dispatcher. She is a bonafide music nerd. She identifies as queer but believes that is a fraction of the whole. Her work can be found in Memoir MixTapes, X-R-A-Y Lit, Montana Mouthful, Homology Lit, Image OutWrite, Hypnopomp and is forthcoming elsewhere. She was a recent finalist in the Glimmer Train Emerging Writers Short Story competition. She is currently editing her first novel and staring at Submittable. 

Which Springsteen song(s) inspired your piece?

“Reason To Believe"

What is it about these songs in particular and/or Bruce’s music in general that inspires you?

For this piece I chose the song “Reason to Believe”. It still catches me off guard and I’ve heard it hundreds of times.

It is the last song on the Nebraska album, which is as bleak as March in the Midwest. On an otherwise dark album he leaves us with a little bit of hope.

He is a master in the use of imagery that is instantly recognizable, resonating with whatever the intended emotion and reaction. “Reason to Believe” begins with a man standing over a dead dog, polkin’ it with a stick like it might get up and run. It’s so specific that Bruce has your attention immediately.  He continues with three more versus about everyday tragedies each one ending with the sentiment that at the end of every hard earned day we find some reason to believe. This song captures Bruce’s spirit exactly.

Throughout his catalog you find song after song filled with heartbreak and hope, the light and dark. He breaks our hearts in the most familiar ways then circles round to remind us of the simplest moments of joy. The ones that get us up each day and sustain us.

Bruce tells us over and over again: “Life’s mysteries remain and deepen. Its answers unresolved so you walk on through the dark cause that’s where the next morning is.”

What five Springsteen songs do you think everyone should listen to?

Well, this was tough. Because, really, five? Just listen to him. Anyway, I came up with five that stop me in my tracks every time I hear them.

* “You’re Missing” From "The Rising" album he made after 9/11. It addresses the tragedy in the way I feel the impact of that day but also in a much deeper universal and profoundly personal way. This song which could be about someone who never came home from the Twin Towers or ran off with a lover or passed away from a terminal disease, traffic accident…a number of reasons but the loss is palpable. If I hear it unexpectedly, I choke up every time. * “Tunnel of Love” From the album of the same name. Go ahead take this ride. No matter how scary falling in love is, the temptation of the mystery and thrill is worth grabbing your girl by the wrist and pulling her on board. Try to not shake your hips to this song.  * “Streets of Philadelphia” Used in the soundtrack of the movie Philadelphia starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. name about AIDS. I tried to write a piece using this song. AIDS is very much a part of my generation. It devastated our community. I lost loved ones while the country lost almost 700,000 sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbors, co-workers, friends.  The song is haunting and gorgeous. * “Wrecking Ball” From the album of the same name. On the surface the song references the destruction of American Industry but like any Bruce song it is a metaphor. I’ve felt this song in my bones as a woman in a male dominated industry, as a queer in the face of hatred, as a person confronted by not only other people's demons but her own. This song has been an anthem for me in some of the most challenging periods in my life. “Come on and take your best shot, let me see what you’ve got, bring on your wrecking ball.” * “Reno” From the “Devils and Dust” album. This is the consummate Flash Fiction piece set in a hotel room with a man and a sex worker. It captures desperation and loneliness without wasting a word. There is history, every sense awakened, it’s a moment you feel like you should look away from but you are caught in the voyeuristic spell. 

What’s your favorite line/section from this piece?

I’m always a little nervous for people who haven’t experienced early trauma, loss or disillusionment…yet. Those of us who are weaned on it know things. We are prepared for coming disasters. We expect it even, with a belief that this too shall pass. I call it the Dao of Bruce. When I say I feel like a Springsteen song it means: Look, times are tough but I’ll come around. It feels dark right now—but light is coming."

Anything else you’d like to say, either about Bruce or about your piece?

I identify with Bruce on such a deep and personal level. I have been listening to him since I was sixteen. His songs are the mixtape/soundtrack of my life. Like me he made questionable fashion decisions in the 80s. He is fucked up and flawed. He represents how I feel about being an American who is fiercely proud but self-aware enough to recognize the fallibility. He’s tough and tender, inaccessible and vulnerable, he can be brutally honest, He’s the Marlboro Man, city slicker, dive bar and 5th avenue. He’s a cheater, liar and loyal to the bone. He’s rock and roll, he’s country, he’s the blues. He’s the sex you know you should resist. He’s heartbreak and heartbreaker. He’s the epitome of Top Energy. Looks damn good in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. I mean, don’t most of us want to be him?

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Dear readers and writers (especially those who contributed to Shut Down Strangers)— Just when I think I’ve finally caught up with mailing out back orders and contributor copies, there's yet another hi