the museum of americana

a literary review

Two Poems by Amorak Huey and W. Todd Kaneko

Slash for President

Tell me what you want / I’ll answer
with a promise / a story about a long trip

across America. I’ve seen men at the end
of a work day / radios blasting
songs in desperate need of a guitar solo.

I’ve seen women / the middle of the night
on the way to a second job / a house  
gone dark / dry / cold because

when you’re down / not all promises make sense:
     & a bullet in a velvet-lined box
     & a pewter skull
     & a broken whiskey bottle
     & a boy waiting for tomorrow to come
     & a hat big enough to hide under

I know how to make the world pay
attention / a man drop to his knees / weep
for everything he has ever desired. My name
is where it’s always been / an electric pulse

in your breast / an oath of smoke
wisping in your mouth. Say it without worry

about how to say it. The risk of failure
is what makes a song worth believing in.

 

 

*

 

 

Slash Plays an Acoustic Guitar Solo

     1. Patience
The man discovers night
spilling across the porch; wind chimes
and hounds’ whine, a decades-old song
on the radio. The man discovers
he wants another swig of whiskey.

     2. All We Need
The man needs so many things:
a new truck, a six-pack,
a new language to describe how
melancholy feels in the body: like dust
in the lungs, like indigestion,

like the briny ocean in the back
of the throat when a song insists
that he think about what he has lost.

     3. Every Day Now
The woman’s body feels different
to the man once she leaves him.

     4. Patience
Hollow-body curve, the ache
of fingertips on a six-string—
the man doesn’t have to sing to feel
bad about drinking a bottle of wine
alone on the stoop.

     5. Sugar
The woman with her nose ring,
her mismatched sneakers, cowgirl
tattoo on her shoulder blade—
her old phone number, her favorite
sandwich, her knuckles.

     6. All We Need
There are too many songs
about sorrow disguised as desire,
canaries’ tongues as a raptor’s
hungry shadow. This is a wish
unleashed by twang and squeal,
regret in the shape of a beer can.

The man knows all the words.

     7. Patience
The man is not singing, not drinking.
A guitar must be playing.

 

~~~

Amorak Huey is author of the poetry collections Boom Box (Sundress, 2019), Seducing the Asparagus Queen (Cloudbank, 2018), and Ha Ha Ha Thump (Sundress, 2015), as well as two chapbooks. He is co-author of the textbook Poetry: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology (Bloomsbury, 2018) and teaches writing at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

 

 

W. Todd Kaneko is the author of The Dead Wrestler Elegies (Curbside Splendor, 2014) and This Is How the Bone Sings (Black Lawrence Press, 2020), and co-author of Poetry: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018). A Kundiman fellow, he is co-editor of Waxwing magazine and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he teaches at Grand Valley State University.