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We’d cut school like knives through butter, the three

Of us – Peter, Stephen and I – to play

Just about all the music we knew,

Which meant that from nine in the morning till

Steve’s parents, the ever-patient Murtaughs,

Would get home from work, I played guitar,

Peter played bass, and Steve (who’d end

Up becoming a guitarist by trade

When we went separate ways, to separate

Schools, in separate states), Steve at this point

Played the drums. We dreamed of power trios

And powered our way through song after song,

Including ones Steve and I wrote – like

“Hey, Regina” and the lamentably

Titled “String Her Up.” Sometimes we tried out

Some Yes, a long “Hey Joe,” the stereo phaser

Was my signature sound, and I’d bend in

And out of notes, imply arpeggios

Only to solo over them, tapped, frowned

Through anything in a major key, felt

My way home on Steve’s map of snares, Pete’s rope.

We’d play an entire Zeppelin album,

Usually the first or second, then stray

By chance into the longer, later songs

Like bees that float down and drown in a pool.

We'd break for lunch and then get back at it,

As though we had a gig to get ready for,

Or a demo to cut, the cassette deck

Rolling its eyes as it whirred round and round.

Peter, as is the nature of bassists,

Held the tunes together and kept things light.

Years later, I assumed he was dead.

My Telecaster glares at me at night now

From inside the hard case by my bed –

And the calluses on my fingertips

Have long since softened. The six-minute solos

At some point became poems it took two months

Minimum to make seem seamless. Steve

In the meantime thrived in the Triangle,

Became Stevie, married Emily; Pete

I knew less about. He posts on Facebook

Cheerfully about the Light, the Great Light

That glows in all of us, sends the occasional

White dove in the occasional shared shot,

A sun resting on a cloud like a pearl

In its mooted gray shell. Nostalgia courts

Me. I'm nearing forty, we were boys –

And I should let us be. But nostalgia

Spreads quickly through the ashes of our youth,

Making ferned fires out of blue beliefs.

When the dark would come, we'd show each other

Our blisters, the painful white whorls peeling,

Our red palms upwards, outstretched and unread.


Rowan Ricardo Phillips

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