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Daniel M. Shapiro

I Can Make You Sing If You Want Me To

We are the distractors, the ones who make you feel even less than entitled. We break down what's in your nature—the trees, the ocean—strip light into geometric shapes. You fail to recognize you're seeing mere triangles, a dance of badges the sun doesn't need anymore. We pretty the water droplets, drizzle them down metal cobwebs until you transfix, ignore the flood. Appealing to the guilt, we provide you with a woman to rescue from an empty castle, a troupe of dancers whose skin looks nothing like yours, whose art exists only for you to enjoy. It's your duty to save, to believe conscience is responsibility, fantasy a verb. You insert yourself into the landscape, take credit for lost cultures. Long after you've discovered fear, you will stumble upon a mirror, watch your face descend into a thousand circles of true color.

*Title is a lyric from "In the Mood" by Robert Plant (#39 on Billboard Hot 100, 1984)

Out with a Lion's Roar

They met where times collide, at the drive-in that serves altered meat. She had been going solo, about to serve time for too many visits to the danger zone. He had pretended not to brag about the rocket he straddled like a pro. They skipped past drones that wielded serving-tray scythes, late-payment penalties pending. Speech had served little purpose, reserved mostly for people who claimed they invented feeling and its destruction; he and she had to expel metal shavings beforehand. Once they got going, it was as if they had forgotten how close forever had become. She had just been turned into a children's cartoon, stretched like taffy, returned to three dimensions, but he couldn't tell. Courtship progressed as mandated, a gathering of repurposed drones in the chorus. The newly together sported white suits and hats, danced a little, waited for the right moment to escape tyranny under a rainbow of raised canes.

*Title and reference to "the danger zone" are lyrics from "She Bop" by Cyndi Lauper (#3 on Billboard Hot 100, 1984)

Suddenly Your Sycophants Are Chanting

At first none of it worked. In a perfect world remained hypothetical, small change tossed in a busker's case. Then the men started to disappear. Women stopped wrapping themselves in sheets. They embraced atonal fashion: pumps with socks, stripes competing against shapes that lied about being parallel. Women conversed and cuddled with mannequins in business suits and Hawaiian shirts, caressed hollow hands till they fell off. Real men used to nod while pretending to listen. When dummies nod, they tip over. Their heads shatter. Women stand on a corner, but not in the way men thought. Now they plug in guitars, belt four-part harmonies, attract the nodders who get it. Large bills run out of the case onto the street, cash to replenish all the broken accessories.

*Title is a lyric from "Hero Takes a Fall" by The Bangles (#96 on UK Singles chart, 1984)

I Think They Got the Alias

What they told her: Stay in the circle. If you venture into rectangles, we'll give the song back to the foreigners; it won't match your tongue. Be cute, not sexy. Smile, but only a little. Don't maintain eye contact with the camera. You want them to like, not lust. Watch it with your hips. Leave the star-making to us. What they didn't tell her: The disco balls have been calibrated. They sync with one another, sync with glass sequins on her blouse. Long ago the masses outgrew Morse code. Every flash of light is a byte they take in, each bit stripped of silver, processed by the proper compartment. She is the instrument, the pretty assistant who draws eyes from the magician's sleeve. They will turn off their TVs, believe they've learned nothing more than a catchy tune. Descending all the matching porches, they will form a band block, march to the store, purchase the single, await further twinkles of instructions.

*Title is a lyric from "Gloria" by Laura Branigan (#2 on Billboard Hot 100, 1982)

Make Us Pay for Laughing in Their Faces

It was to be a contract killing, half the cash up front, half after rock and roll had been painted over and viewed in an open casket. Their weaponry wrapped nuance in cliché, promoted the xylophone to lead instrument. Water and sky, that ubiquitous duet of blue, would tenderize the landscape into three-chord submission. Tides would shake them up, spoiling their teen-mag faces with toxic waves. As they reached the bridge, their expressions stretched into gum on a playground. They could no longer go through with it, took themselves apart like revolvers. With new hooks in place, their menace of abandoned garages restored, they walked away prepared to face hordes of amplified plastic, all the malignant trends.

*Title is a lyric from "Love My Way" by The Psychedelic Furs (#44 on Billboard Hot 100, 1982)

We Know They Won't Win

In the intro, he shrugged at friends who called him a savior, knew they had confused the testaments. His band should've been done in by plagues: note cards, frying pans, chicken on a stick that rained for days. He calmly walked through the house of verses, exorcising with acoustic guitar and floating head. Tropospheric dinner plates would shatter, first on the roof, later against the brazen openings of windows. He suggested they do chores until the storm passed, wield irons to smooth out shirts and ghosts. When he got to the last room, the final measures of song, he whispered in the drummer's ear: Hold all my calls. Finally he could set down the guitar, open the door to a projectile-free outro, stride into a meadow that reached to the end of the decade.

*Title is a lyric from "Don't Dream It's Over" by Crowded House (#2 on Billboard Hot 100, 1987)

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