Dennis Mahagin

it always starts with you
staring at me like that
while you leisurely scribble
in your palm-sized notebook

the same sequence
of notes I took in the
uncounted hours

making forty-seven first drafts of a
poem about hysteria piled up like
fluffy outhouse butt-wipe scraps
I punch down for catnap pillow in
a pinch—after which you clear
your throat and say:

“Tell me more, please
about zee scene in zee church.”

which I’m fairly certain will kick start

the forty-eighth poem

blooming as we speak in a stench of
patchouli, stale beer and salmon guts,

wherein my protagonist
biker—got up in red leather
chaps and nothing else—

kneels at the foot of communion rail with a
handbill from major pizza chain grafted
to his ass crack like a mattress tag, and when
he wiggles his hips it makes a sound like
a playing card clothes-pinned to bike spokes,

while a John Lennon-looking
priest holds the little white wafer
waist-high like a zipper head,
and hums the chorus to

“Listen What the Man Said.”

“Jah...go on please.”

and the sound of your voice is
so comforting, doctor, I can see a
double-vision version of myself

reflected in the onyx button eyes of
a hobby horse as it rears up against
the grain on a chugging calliope,

and the Ride Master—who is God—has a
look on his face like James Gandolfini
in the movie “True Romance” when he
understands that Christopher Walken
is about to blow Dennis Hopper’s head off.

* * *

When the ink starts to peter and
the words are coming too fast for
my hand to make meaning and
meter last on the page—that’s when

you hand me a fat purple
Sharpie magic marker

which I clutch
tight to my face

like an asthmatic’s inhaler,

and I take a few
deep hits straight
off the drippy

grape-scented tip
in time to think that
all of this might
just come out
fine after all…

until the pigeon
trapped way down
in the interoffice
air shaft

begins to flap its wings again—but
a little less vigorously this time,
like phlegm dregs from an ICU
tracheotomy tube in dire
need of suction…

“Vell, my boy, I have zee good news…
and then zome bad news.”

And doktor, oh doktor!

did you know that
the smoke alarm in the actuary’s office
down the hall might as well be a boxer’s bell
going off before the fifth round of a fixed
prizefight wherein the Baby Huey Palooka
is grazed with a glancing right, and topples
inexplicably—in fact, comically—
to the canvas?

“Zee good news is dat jew may or
may not be homosexual, my zon.”

And by now I understand that
what I ought to be listening for is the taxi
cab door when it slams on the thumb of the
shrieking hooker six floors down on Seventh
Avenue—which is and always has been

your standing cue to continue:

“And zee bad news
is that under no
should jew ever,
ever ask me again
about zee bad news.”

Another scrotal clump
of notebook paper falls
at my splayed feet,

and the whole insane thing
starts up all over again.

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