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Michael Philips


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

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