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Bagging Kid Charlemagne

You cannot see the upper reaches of Everest
from the base camp, where you acclimatize
with attitude and finger exercises.

In starting your embrace of the peak,
You must move with an almost monotonous precision,
perfecting each phrase, bend, hammer, and lift-off,
owning each measure before moving
across hours to Camp Two,
then Camp Three,
each section with its hurdles and mazes,
your mind bobbing like a pigeon’s head
searching for the path

After Camp Four
and across the Hillary Step
with the Kid’s summit in sight
your fingers fluid and rippling,
repeating impossible runs
until they can be sold as easy,
you’re at once focused and disjointed
as if watching yourself play in a film
while you’re playing in the film,
or maybe your brain
is oxygen-deprived
knowing you are so close,
a single ascending line to go

And when you finally summit
you pass through a golden turnstile
and look down from rare air
feeling a bond with the masters
and all you can do to underscore the feat
is tenderly put the guitar down
and lean your head way back on the couch
until you are looking straight up


Note: Rolling Stone magazine called Larry Carlton’s “Kid Charlemagne” solo (from Steely Dan’s 'Royal Scam' album) “one of the three greatest rock guitar solos ever.”

Submitted: Thursday, March 31, 2005
Edited: Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Read poems about / on: guitar, running

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Comments about this poem (Colleagues Who Die by Michael Philips )

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  • Guy Lip-more (3/23/2014 4:24:00 AM)

    Excellent write, loved this.

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  • Tailor Bell (9/9/2006 4:07:00 PM)

    masterful blending of these two endeavors. strong work. -Tailor

  • Joy Vanderhelm (1/22/2006 8:18:00 PM)

    The twist in this one is superb. The comparison envious. I think this is the best I've read of you. But, then, I haven't gotten too far down the list, yet. I will, though, given time.

  • Chuck Audette (1/2/2006 9:16:00 PM)

    Cool poem. An interesting intermingling of two different, but lofty, goals. -chuck

  • Lenchen Elf (3/31/2005 3:56:00 PM)

    I really went along with the steep ascent, even more so when the twist came: -) .

  • Solitary Man (3/31/2005 10:05:00 AM)

    Very good. Did you mean 'attitude' or 'altitude'?

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