Stirring : A Literary Collection

Dennis Hale Mahagin


Legend's grimace -- grin  
as he went to the wall once too often
at the far turn of the final speedway lap
is an edward munch still life dripping down
the grandstand rafters with the prolongated exhaust-blast
slack-jawed fan faces framed in the flames
like strewn family photos melting on a hotel radiator  no

houdini balloon-pop breath-in-the-belly cuff-slip knot tricks
or state-of-art stock car can opener jaws of life can pull him
out of this one -- anticipation and adulation swirls like
theatrical smoke through the stadium gets in camera eyes forming
lumps down the throats of a million TV viewers knew if they watched
long enough something like this was bound to happen.

A teacher told me how he'd once been drawn to lay down some
long green and join the jostling throng of streetside gawkers
at the acrobatic family wire-walking act --  straining glazed eyes
karate chop -- shaded against the glare like stiff salutes craning tired
tilted necks back at impossible angles so as not to miss
a blessed thing sustaining a suspension of disbelief at all costs he
remembered hearing a kid perched on manly shoulders wonder out loud --  
"daddy why does the man do that why daddy isn't it
dangerous daddy?" -- got shook like a brave little bull rider
as the father shrugged and ssshhed the boy a little
too roughly by way of response.

There was a freeze frame pause  
some ill-advised camera shutter pops like
pigeon flock flutter of wing flaps breaking cover
through dead-calm dawn mist and it was then that the
supple slippered feet began the heel-to-toe creep
along a frayed strung out high tension line swaying a little
too steep in sudden whip of wind gust stopped him and everyone else
underneath all right in their tracks like lab rats whisker-sniffing at waxy
strand of string cheese reinforcement feedback reward dangling in a maze
corner it's  "what we all came there for anyway my friend let's  be  honest"   then
when the big balance stick held palms up like some
awesome tribal offering slipped from his grip the master
faltered -- grasping precarious purchase
flailing and flopping like fresh-hooked fish
on wet boat deck while the collective smattering vicarious tragic
skin-pop splatter of ooohhhs and aahhhs ran like electric current
right down the length of the onlooker daisy-chain
giving themselves away they stared for as long as they felt they
ought to at a chalk-outline red-and-grey rorshasch blot on asphalt
open to all manner of interpretation.

When daredevils and escape artists
expire of old age on slow cirrhosis transplant peritonitis
deathbed of redundant days our last best illusion
is laid bare like hysterical cannibal drum-banging
battery rabbit running the wrong way out the magician's ruffled
tuxedo sleeve in a welter of hecklers' jeers backed into a corner
by stage left hissing and bristling with threatened rodent's
universal nothing-to-lose fear and rage confusion

so we cut the next ten year old wallenda-wunderkind talent
some slack as he hones his craft inline skating
on a big bridge cable by the shipyards  

and ancient Kneivel like a captive beast pacing a display cage
can only narrow craggy bloodshot eyes to slits and spit in disgust
watching helpless as little Robby comes blasting out his mama's belly
with a toothless grin soaking up the crowd roar on a gleaming chrome
rubber-smoking Kawasaki with umbilical cord hanging loose
atop the teardrop gas tank and his front wheel tracking
ten feet in the air.

Location: Portland, Oregon
Publications: Alchemy Online Literary Magazine, Twelfth Planet, The Temple

Stirring : A Literary Collection

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