Slash Plays the National Anthem


poem by W. Todd Kaneko


Slash doesn’t have to remove his hat
when he plays a custom Les Paul
because there are other things
to fret about. The way a man stands
for all those things we used
to believe in—rock and roll, baseball,
girls drenched in cheap drinks
and heavy mascara—none of that seems
to matter now as he plays guitar
for America. We can mouth
the words if we can’t hit the high notes.
If we have forgotten the words, we can
fake it. Houdini wore a similar hat
when he dazzled audiences with scarves
and rabbits erupting from his sleeves
No one told Abraham Lincoln to remove
his hat when he spoke at Gettysburg.
John Wayne kept his hat as he fought
through the Old West soaked in blood
and rotgut. We don’t need to see
the top of a man’s head to know
how we feel. When a man wears
a guitar slung low in the middle
of a sports arena, when he purifies
the atmosphere with song, we can
protect our hearts with our hands
as he plucks those simple notes
from thin air.



W. Todd Kaneko