Pedal Steel Guitar

The pedal steel guitar has silver strings.
Most, like mine, are tuned to an open E9.
Ten wires are tied taut and high above the board,
and you set the chrome slide bar on top
and rock it back and forth.

There are three worn gray pedals,
flat against the floor. The first hooks the B string
and pulls it up a full step
to C sharp. The second pedal pitches
the third and sixth strings up one half-step each.

The last pedal is more mysterious.
I haven’t tried it yet. But I have learned
that forcing down the first two
with the ball of your left boot
bends the tonic chord into a subdominant.

It is easy to do this wrong,

But doing it right makes a sound like
Aphrodite rising from the foam.
It kindles a current in that bar you’re cradling,
and makes the steel silver picks on your taloned fingertips
flash beneath the fluorescent workshed lights.

My fingers may never skitter across those
pearly strings like the guys I’ve seen in Nashville.
And I can’t wear a cowboy hat without
looking like a fool.
But one night, maybe, I’ll play it onstage

behind a guy who can really sing.
And when I twist that C chord into an F,
you’ll be there, in a dress of gold lamé,
clapping on the offbeat.