The Sultans of Swing

The Sultans of Swing

This was supposed to be a lyric ode
to youth and longing

and lost youth and lost backroads
and craving a menthol

hit off a fresh Salem Light everytime
I hear Mark Knopfler

pluck those first heady, horsepowered
notes on the frets

of his red ’61 Strat—a husky, rolling
song itself about losers

saving up something for Friday night
like I saved up

my own skin in high school, and muscles
sinewed as a fence-post,

for that creole beauty whose face
passes on occasion

through my Facebook feed, still sending
its rhythmic shiver

in the dark like we’re alone and parked
at the end

of some harrowed, corn-stubbled arc,
coming in out

of the fall rain, rapt and alright
in the cricket-crooned

cab of my dad’s truck way on down-
South outside

Anytown. The alchemy is all there,
cause we knew all

the chords—the trills, squeezes, and
honkytonk of our

trumpet-playin’ band—but the words
seem gone, which

goes to show no matter how much
you stop

and hold everything, make it fast
to feel the jazz

go down, hear the music blow
and sing one more

thing before the time bell rings—

you can’t. We are the Sultans.
We are

the Sultans. We were, in the raiment
of jeans, the Sultans

who played Creole, the Sultans
of Swing.


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