Dennis Mahagin


Scott wove steel web and stained glass
atriums of green light
and sunlight
with words

finishing a first book in longhand
about paradise
just to win over the one
love of his life

while his best buddy hunted
and pecked -- carefully smoothing out colloquial
mud spackle patches of syntax around the pale
dust mote halo glow suffusing his cellar door,

craving the foxhole dark there

he swore, and scratched at scalp, concentrating
on his telegraph visions of a world
weary kid character called Nick
who said

"Swell" and "You ought not to think about it" a lot.

And it is true
Scott would give you

the shirt off his back but oh to be
a fly on the wall in one of those
Paris bistros

when Hemingway would hit him up
for loan after loan, waiting until he went
to fetch another round before calling him
Nancy Boy and Dilettante in orator tones

to impress the third-wife's-best-friend
cub reporter in training long enough
to get into her slit skirts.

Is it possible then
to picture them now

like talking head pop ups on split screens
above backlit racks of liquor bottles
at the upscale Sports Bar

in an ESPN Classic Replay
of their respective reckoning?

Right before the crucial moment
when we break
for a quarter-mil-per second
commercial spot and there they are

in slow motion --

Fitzgerald, grinning in saddle, waving us on
for a final helping of his scarred
large heart

while Ernest knits his undulating brow
like a pawnbroker poring over flawed facets
in the family jewel case and calculates

at last a genius stroke
truncation of indisputable
meaning made not from words

but a splatter of grey matter
stucco-swirled with pockmark
arabesques of buckshot.

The Korean bartender hits the flicker
and as the screens go blank
a stockbroker leans in,
the bar rail

for emphasis, says

"Well, ya just gotta hand it to that Hemingway dude
anyway the man got insanely rich just for telling it
like it is..."

Then the poet with tie dyed poncho and dreadlocks
in the straight-back chair by the faux fireplace
looks up

for a second

distracted by the stadium roar from the Spanish
soccer game on the big screen,

before diving back to his fever scrawl
in the little spiral notebook.

In a couple of minutes the solemn manager
will appear before him with huge hands
clasped at his crotch
like a pallbearer

and tell the kid in a raspy voice
to buy something

or else just exit
the premises.

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Publications: Stirring, Slow Trains, Erosha, FRiGG, Deep Cleveland, 3 A.M., etc.

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