Michael Stipe Is a Gus Hansen Look-Alike
With Unfortunate Facial Staphylococcus

Dennis Mahagin

Slow play
was the order of the day.

A dearth of table talk giving way
to superstitious

knock … knock … KNOCK — KNOCK

Oh, if I could just take down one more pot, or
Maybe Two,

thought Q,

is SUCH a frigging drag
when they clean your clock
for you …


Still, sometimes, it seemed … Oh, who
KNEW?—and way too many rainbow flops for serious players
to believe in a proper Flow any mo’, very much like the bad beats
they showed on World Poker Show, only locked in, from the Get Go,
wired aces as like to be cracked by Trip 3’s than some flesh-eating
viral STD causing panic on a worldwide scale, should the associations
be allowed to run … free as unadulterated, underrated

Synchronicity, much like

much like the schizophrenic
Anaphora Mister Q always felt before a
recurring vision of Billy Martin
and Sonny
Bono bashing their alcoholic
brains out, on opposite
trunk-sides of a self-same Aspen tree—oh, how Siamese
the Iconic Synchronicity!—Sonny and Billy, Billy and
Sonny repeatedly kicking dirt on the dealer, asking for
new bases all around, and a leather Dice Cup swallowing
snow-shoe buckles, digital snapshots and other lucky

memorabilia such as Q
would often buy at the GNC
where the svelte clerk swore he, himself, was the second
coming of Dean Moriarty. This GNC clerk, stacking bottles
of cherry Botox on a display rack, said:

“Listen … I know Time,
I get these Bad Streaks all the time. Why not try my
Peanuty Plain M & M’s—double-coated, so alive
and kicking with Vicks Vap O’ Rub, Coen Brothers
Hydra-Headed Raisinets, and some oven-hot limon
snot from a Mrs. Fields No-Nonsense Baguette!”

“How ’bout my change due, and better yet
no more lip from you?” countered Q. He unscrewed
a Botox cap. Took a sip, clenched his fist, smacked
his surly, curlicue lips.

“Help yourself, bro, please
do!” said Cassady 2. “But I ask you: How many times have you
thought a thing—which presently becomes a distinctly present
and real happening, the Aha you totally saw coming, bad beat, bad
beat, Nut Bush limning the Four Flush, get the Door it’s Dominos!
Just take it slow, and be calm now, my bro …”

“Do you mind?” said Q. “I’ve got a Game
to get back to!”

“I know Time, I know
how it goes!… At the height of my Bi–Polar disorder
I played lots and lots of Online Hold Em Poker … I had a ton
of scores to settle with them who I could not see, and neither,
they, me … One time, the Server dealt me Pocket Jacks, I licked
my chops, caressed my Mac, got ready to get busy with those
Jacks, in the same instant some computer virus attack froze my
screen stone black … I carried that CPU tower eighteen blocks
to Geek Squad in a hail stone shower, and those boys saw a
pockmarked, lobster-red version of me they wished to God
never to see, never, never to see again, amen, amen, amen.”


Neal Moriarty 2 rang up Q’s
snow cones, energy bars, model airplane glue, and twin rainbows
of Skittles, Cheap Moneymaker Shades plus All-Purpose Sharpie
Magic Markers. In Moriarty’s cobalt eyes there now appeared:
a lucky pair of charmed stars. Mellow, so very,
very mellow.

“What’s the sum?” yelled Q, “C’mon whadow I owe you
whadow I owe whadow I owe you I gotta RUN 

“Relax, chumley,” said Cassady 2, shoving the sordid sundries
against the conveyor belt like a laconic finger painter, or Napoleonic
general with tiny pawns on the Palm Top, tin sentries can’t stand up
against the Centrifugal. “As a poet and a player, you should
well know:

sometimes the links they run away, they sadly melt like cheap
Olympiad Rings in a welfare lion tamer trick. The connections,
the old mathematics and facial tics in lieu of quote-unquote
“Tells,”—but never to your face and appearing in the end
not so taut as … well, at first you may have thought …”

And try as he might, with positive internal bytes and Doyle
Brunson palm heels ground like lemon peels on brow, the Ezra
Pound Bromides foaming in his cochlear canals, Q could not
stop the crescendo, rushing, rushing white water rapids
for his rabbit ears, nor would the missing stanza materialize
in his head, as some Open-Ended Straight Draw, up against
what could have been a juiced pair of Kings, or Ten of Spades
butt-stuck with Diamond Deuce.

“But I’ve been here!” barked Q. “Before … UNDERSTAND?
Where I lost all my frigging chips. School of Hard Knock Retro
Viral Trips … Don’t you get my meaning? Some twin who took
root in the Aspen, ran up Alpine Taxi Fare with Jiffy Lube and
tracheotomy tubes, trying to get the Monoxide to flow freely
into the cab there … ARE YOU EVEN AWARE? … I have
been here befo’ in this Salmonella Brand Matt Damon KGB
Health Food Bar of The Mind. I have … been …
here … b e f o’ … Yo?”


And so true, for poor Mr. Q, but was it a
fortnight ago? Or a score of Bad Beat years
before the time before the time before the
time before that?—oh, such a sick

feeling, knowing how your hand
won’t hold up,

and you either pay up
to see it how it ends,

or Fold …

“It’s like growing old,” says Q. “You got
any herbal meds might defend against that?”

Neal Cassady shrugs, for
all the world another Doppel-
ganger Tag Team, his better
side ducking back

down behind a dream.

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