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Guitar Shopping

Guitar Shopping

The salesman with tattooed arms

takes my history as if he’s a doctor—

Why am I here today? Why do I want

a new axe? What sound am I looking for?

His jaw drops when I tell him I play Death

Metal, but he’s cool when he sees my

clipped nails and the tough callous

on my fingertips. He swings down

an Ibanez Metal Machine, plugs in

to a Marshall stack, and while my hand

spiders up and down the fretboard,

he wants me to notice the action,

the sustain, the way the Seymour

Duncan custom pickups scream.

When I hang it up, he grabs a purple

Menace and laughs when he plays

a riff from “Purple Haze.” As I listen,

I think about my band in Medicine’s

Goth Metal Show, how we never let loose

like this with our instruments, even when

we score a Medtronic LIFEPAK

with enough juice to jump-start a heart

back to the Bo Diddley beat. We don’t

amp ourselves up to sing the body

electric, and in our fluorescent music hall

we turn it down and go monotone when

we ask, “Surgery or stents? Radiation

or chemo?” And I wonder what I can learn

from this salesman shredding a Dean

Dimebag Dime O Flame, eyes closed,

legs splayed, head tilted toward the stars,

asking me have I decided, asking me

to choose as if my life depends on it.

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