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Daniel M. Shapiro

The Ballad of Great Power

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Trapped in the amber forest, men became Ouroboros, devouring their own bodies, blood and meat the product of discarded hammer-ons, overflown decibels. Testosterone stitched in smog, the men aimlessly turned to white powder, which only accelerated the fatal twitch of their fingers. When horses began to lose their gallop, the poets made sense of metaphor, spinning unearthed 78s at 33 rpm to comprehend every word.

It started when one man broke a black-and-white beast of 88 legs that had slaughtered all the six-string sirens in town. Other men followed, ultimately making eye contact with cameras, sometimes even appearing to embrace tears. When their reined-in songs crossed waves, a collective ache rolled itself thin, its end forming a point sharp as Cupid's arrow. Piercing through amber, the ache fashioned a tunnel in which a new breed of masculinity could escape, its leashed collar a discipline welcomed by the necks of ex-prisoners.

The Voice below the Belt

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This time, her hero is her dungeon. He keeps her locked, keeps her knees locked. She wants to tell him she has a thing for stars, a thing for that view from space where Earth is just clouds, water, and curves. When she starts to speak, he holds finger to lips, a businessman who figures if the price were too high, they would stop paying. Until the hits are over, they will keep paying. He knows she knows the deal. He thinks he knows. Sure, she'll be rescued, but only after she's passed out, when the stars swirl from inside. Otherwise, she'll walk out of here on her own, get picked up in her best friend's broken-down carriage. She'll tell the story happily so no one can feel sorry. Then she'll drift off to sleep, wishing for a curse to keep midnight away, a curse to keep eyes closed.

The Thorns into Which He Fell

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Through the lone window, the frontman counted the times light had come. An enchantress who knew only easy listening had heard him singing in the woods, levitated him to the tower. From that height, she figured, no one would hear him wail about partying, about how easy it was to find women. He would find no women.

He had almost nothing save for long hair, which he would lower through the window with a bucket attached. The enchantress would place food, bleach, and chest wax in the bucket.

He didn't know how strong he and his hair were until one day, when he practiced high notes, screeches, splits in patent leather pants. For a moment, the light had bounced off his waxed chest into the eyes of a young woman out picking thimbleberries. When he heard her footsteps, he instinctively lowered the bucket, assuming she was the enchantress. The young woman placed a handful of thimbleberries in the bucket and disappeared.

Many lights later, he smelled thimbleberries again and knew someone other than the enchantress was near. This time, the frontman lowered his hair without the bucket and, using a shriek he had been practicing, yelled, Let me lift you up. When the young woman reached the tower, she saw a man who resembled a lion, vanity spilling over limestone. Realizing she had made a mistake, she leapt from the tower. Midair, she was spotted by the enchantress, who turned her into a phalarope, the rare bird that dominates males.

Now, whenever we hear the winds whip through the forest, we listen to a distant power ballad still being sung by a man too proud to keep feet on earth.


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There was no blood of Englishmen, no goose—only the gold shaped into bricks by hooks that spread glam across the Sunset Strip. Men wore head coverings to snake dances, primitive rituals giving way to night-long songs about the hair of lovers. Abandoned bottles and powdered surfaces misled surveyors who didn't have the sense to push the button behind glass. There a pristine track lay hidden, from tears to strings to tape, as children awaited the release. For years, they would feast on the crunch of bass and drums, the squeal, the swagger that had been withheld from them. And the men would swallow platinum, gold having become fodder for boys with only dreams.

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