three poems

by W. Todd Kaneko and Amorak Huey

Slash Plays the Intro to “Welcome to the Jungle”

It goes like this, goes like a spider loping
after every skitter, weep, and shriek.

Goes like a machete scraped on asphalt.
It doesn’t matter where I am—

each sidewalk the same under these boots,
the city rasps its way into my nose,

machines into the cigarettes that consume me.
Each smoky kiss proves I belong

where no one knows my name.
You know where you are. The rhythm

is gossamer, silk, noose. I don’t know
the last time I heard a lullaby.


Prayer to Saint Slash of the Splintered Axe

we believe in the unholy
wholeness of songs

squawks & feathers

spread across lawns & hearts

vibrating mad inside our mouths—
our rib cages

we don’t believe in destroying

anything worth destroying
but saving all that blooms in agony—

in gutters & graveyards

that carnage already gathered

in the mangled grill of a Camaro—
anyone can break anything

where the wounded gather

to mourn—

we shatter what we shatter

against knuckle bones against brick
schoolhouses against broken teeth—

because if there is no safe place

in flocks to be mended

to be broken together— all of us—

there can never be a good time
to smash a guitar

with our bestial grief

with our necessary greed

with costumed fury laced
with kerosene & hunger for tribute—

calling for the ghosts

unless a man can grip
the world with both hands for elegy—

there can be no comfort

for abandoned spirits

in songs about heartbreak

to break us all
into shard & smithereen—

listen for every guitar chord

to come home to roost

for good—

each trainwreck its own love song
each splinter its own whole thing

ready for new demolition


Slash Has Food Poisoning

Stomach / body / heart / every song
a prayer for a quicker death than this.

The man you were at dinner
does not care about you.

Bad gravy / tainted sushi / midnight tacos /
nothing between you and the mosh pit

but a wisp of smog and a guitar solo.
Every girl curls her lip, waves

a middle finger: young love.
The man you were at dinner

wears his greed like a leather trench coat.
Every song races toward its last note,

every echo leaves a man with more desire
than any body can contain. Sometimes

a man plays the hero, gets the girl.
Sometimes he settles

for a roiling gut / the kiss
of a toilet / porcelain against skin.

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

Amorak Huey, a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, is author of the poetry collections Seducing the Asparagus Queen (Cloudbank Books, 2018), Ha Ha Ha Thump (Sundress, 2015) and Boom Box (Sundress, forthcoming 2019), as well as two chapbooks. He is co-author of the textbook Poetry: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology (Bloomsbury, 2018) and teaches at Grand Valley State University.

Artwork by: Ken Walton