2 POems by james butler-gruett and gabriel dozal
You’re Yngwie at the Guitar Expo for Ornate Shredders
but you’re just wearing an open ruffled shirt repeating:
“Young, we are marmalade in the steam
of a Swedish guitar solo,” vainly living
by the mantra more chest is more chest,
your face now all solo and leather performance.
No one has seen the real Yngwie in years.
Several off-duty actors in Yngwie getups
reluctantly deployed across many expos…
No one knows who the real Yngwie is, and you
are one of many incarnations livestreaming
your booth time at the expo for humble shredders.
How do you feel, charging children?
Eager shred urchins trip over pirate boots
and hold their scalloped fretboards high
hoping for one sloppy signature from you
—Baroque, bus-and-truck huckster
before fifteen Marshall heads and no cabs,
how do you riff at night?
Find yourself on the business end of a man’s
index finger, him coming up to you and flinging
a bag of mini metronomes in the air to spit
right in your tanned, sunglassed mug:
“May I say a little about your ragged eyes?
Eyes to spread like marmalade over my
morning toast if you keep up this charade!
Rising Force yourself into the Ornate Expo
and think we wouldn’t discern?
I wanna give you the keys to the Lamborghini
but you’ll never get the keys to Paganini.
A song of wings riding the night, my my,
how easy you hand your life the demons.”
The leaving behind, it’s hard to explain—
but these arpeggios heard from a distance,
these overtures in the vaulting expo center
seem like distant controllers pointing you
to a re-recording of the old hapless you
who stood in the shadow of a practice amp
and a Squire Strat, innocent fog you ascended
from into the Last Temptation of Malmsteen.
Let the livestream show you cowering
out to the parking lot, fake Strat slung over
your non-Swedish shoulder, a puff of dry ice
pointing the way for you like a 3D
mockup of your former acme.
Lana Del Rey has collapsed!
I said I’d meet you in the mosh pit
but it was a little less mosh and a
little more swaying, Lana in mid
belt, you had a hand at my belt,
and together we watched her lean
back into the limbo of Ultraviolence.
All around you a halo of phone screens
and you’re a blue ghost for a bit.
A flat hangover chorus sung by people
with future hangovers in sight now.
She was a Kennedy in a video, Lana,
I saw her in that frame for a second
iced by fear for seconds, so many
as she fell back onto the stage floor
and you at my side were her Jackie O
no sunglasses in sight but you leapt
toward her for a second, mimed the
same fear I thought and did nothing.
See? You act.
But nobody writes a poem about a
justified fear, and she was just lying
down to sing. Lying on the ground
she looked like not collapsing or tired
but just comfortable, like that’s where
she’d written that song. And at that
angle even her larynx was lounging.
Maybe it’s good to mistake comfort
for danger, keeps me on my toes.
I put my hand on your shoulder, as she
sings supine. You tell me we missed
the mosh pit and then point onstage. I nod
and it’s fine for a song but I hope it’s not
her permanent concert position seems unhealthy
oh Lana we love you get up
James Butler-Gruett writes poetry, fiction, and reviews. His writing has been published in Yes Poetry, the Cardiff Review, Entropy, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Tucson.
Gabriel Dozal is from El Paso, TX. He writes about the borderlands and has work in The Literary Review, Guernica, The Iowa Review, Hunger Mountain, and forthcoming from The Volta.