Daniel Nester

Guns 'n Roses Concert, Hershey Park, 1991

I drive for three hours, wait for three more
to stare at a vacant stage
yoked in the kiln-smell of candy bars.
I cram for a Melville exam
and read straight through
Skid Row's set, then wait
for either plot to pick up. Finally,
at midnight, strains of "Paradise City"
clear the Pennsylvania air.
Ahab just filled his cauldron
with blood pledges for his leg, and
Axl Rose starts three songs midway.
A trio of topless girls chickenfight
atop boyfriends, smack each other
with non-beer-holding hands.

I had marked the Pequod's dreampath
as best I could, listened to my
drunken professor hold forth
with chromatic dexterity,
but end up filling two blue books
with a tale my father passed on to me
in the backyard, the story
of a legless and armless astronaut
who is sent out into space,
and meditates until
his limbs regenerate back.
He lands on the habitable moon
of Jupiter. There's this final shot
from behind--a woman, a baby.
It's Eden. My term paper takes

a different tack. "Moby Cock" exposes
Melville's rampant use of phallic symbols.
The word "harpoon" is used 300 times.
Vagina dentata, peg legs,
the whale as castrating mother.
That sort of thing.
Anyway, during Slash's guitar solo,
a dirge-ful Godfather theme,
I don't think about castration
or spacemen at all, or even
when the bass player spits on
the drunken crowd.
Everyone sings with Axl anyway
and it all ends in houselights
blinding us in megawatt whiteness.

My father used to say, "Once you drive
past Harrisburg, you're in America."
By which he meant white people, of course,
his constant urge to break away
from his own left arm,
a permanent driver's side trucker tan.
In a white Taurus, I went
to see the whiteness of the sky.
What I got was America, "Sweet Child
o' Mine," a traffic jam in
the land of chocolate kisses,
and a C-minus crazy man in a kilt.
And then I drove home,
and nuzzled in the furrows of my arms.