Contest Creative:6 - 2nd Place Winner

By Bill Gathan

You must not have heard the iron horse stampede into town tonight galloping in the darkness pulling a century of boxcars gripping the rails and ties the snorts of steam and exhalations of the engine

You must not have heard the sweating machine of humanity hammering stakes in the dusty ground tying knots in threadbare ropes and yelling a rhythmic cadence among the laterned stillness raising a city of tents before dawn

You must not have heard the deafening noise of the stars ease the aching backs of the laboring boys laughing joking straining smiling invincible under the cosmic applause

You must not have heard the vigor and life pulsing just outside your window as you slept and dreamt of undoing the things you did while awake

You must not have heard me dreaming of suffocation and paralysis of gargoyles perched on my chest grinning jack-o-lantern smiles at my horror

You must not have heard anything for you never rolled over or shifted or bolted up swinging punching flailing at nothing as I did

Listen, can’t you hear my heart beating synchronously with theirs whistling the identical tune joining their chorus that encores for the adoration of the universe'?

Tomorrow you sleepers will finally hear the resounding symphonic pipe organs of the carousel

Tomorrow you sleepers will finally smell the pungency of cigar smoke mingled with the sugary scent of cotton candy

Tomorrow you sleepers will finally feel the presence of the traveling show and see the tips of waving flags and the steel arc of the Ferris wheel hovering above the rooftops of your homes

And you won't question how any of it happened and why you're curiously drawn to fascinating forms tangled in the early morning sky

And you won't question the midway or the Big Top or the three rings or the how the acrobats buzz the crowd and work without a net

And you won't question your rolled sleeves on arms holding sledgehammers impossibly trying to ring bells mounted atop fixed poles

And you won't question your need to ride statued stallions impaled on brass pistons around in circles

And you won't question surrendering your money to the mustached candy striped man in front of the ten in one garrulously convincing in his wicker hat and bamboo cane

And you won't question him as he barks and points at pastel paintings on draped canvas of conjoined twins of bearded ladies of Jo-Jo the Dog Faced Boy of incubator babies of a very old man with enormous wings and of the FeeJee Mermaid

And you won't question the deception when you pay extra for the Egress and see nothing but Barnum's blow-off

And you won't question your empty wallet when the light bulbs dim and the rides are shut down and the booths are closed and you return to your homes for the moment a participant in the Greatest Show instead of a spectator

Should I leave no trace but an impressioned pillow and wander naked under the soft glow of street lamps wading through their pools of light then back into the cool night? In a vacant lot on the outskirts of the city among the weeds and hollyhocks and dandelions among rusted tin cans and balding tires among crumbling red brick foundations among yellowed newspapers among a child's version of a baseball diamond surfaces a Leviathan.

And here I stand among the forgotten headlines

And here I stand among the discarded objects

And here I stand among these innocent base paths

And here I stand at the threshold of this tented cenotaph

Tomorrow you sleepers will finally arrive but for now I am the sole reveler of the spectacle.

Tomorrow you sleepers will finally arrive but I will ask you now to join me at the periphery of this ephemeral bazaar and to my solicitation you will answer Tomorrow

And you will answer Tomorrow to cunning magicians brandishing stacked decks of fanned playing cards beguiling you to pick a card any card

And you will answer Tomorrow to barefoot minstrel prat falls patched trousers and starched collars wielding divine outstretched palms anxious for charity

And you will answer Tomorrow to the parquet wooden floors soaked with intoxicating brass arrangements

And you will answer Tomorrow to a box step or a foxtrot or an intricate waltz with a dancing girl's beckoning stare scented with frankincense fine temple hair matted to her smooth forehead looping gossamer poetic script inked on splendid parchment

And you will answer Tomorrow to burlesque paramours shedding feathered hyacinthine husks and beckoning painted fingers from behind drawn velvet curtains

And you will answer Tomorrow to every crooked ring toss to every gypsy palm reader to every contortionist who tries to twist you into a working part of the sweating machine of humanity

Until to every brash voice you say Tomorrow

Until to every immortal whisper you say Tomorrow

Until to every laugh every strain every smile

You fret

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Listen, can't you hear these people singing trolling the mysterious design of paradise teaching you townspeople how to snort and sweat and pulse outside your own windows?

You must not have heard the Leviathan dive beneath the surface disguised as canvas and steel and stakes and ropes it rolls and spirals and descends dragging with it Tomorrow

You must not have heard the gargoyles leap from silent cathedrals and scurry across the girders of your office buildings the smokestacks of your factories the tight ropes of your power lines and peer into your bedrooms scratching the breath fogged glass ticking the windows with stones from their own hide

You must not have heard the circus finale invoke such an overwhelming ovation from the stars that it breached the curve of the sky

You must not have heard the collapse of Heaven's caryatids during a dramatic denouement that held a whole note too long

You must not have heard the humbled moon swell with pride and grow too big for a fragile sky vulnerable against such girth and weight its threadbare ropes snapping and whistling past the ears of the players taking their hovering bows over the rooftops of your homes

You must not have heard the laboring boys shed their hammers doff their caps and take their bows or the ring master step forward on the stage to take his bow or the acrobats and the contortionists take their bows or the mustached candy striped man the cunning magicians and the barefoot minstrels take their bows or the gypsies the dancing girls and the burlesque paramours take their bows or when every working part of the sweating machine of humanity linked hand to hand synchronously took its bow.

Listen, you must have heard something for when during the recessional I took my bow and joined the final chorus of Flesh, Farewell you turned your ear to the universe rolled over shifted and bolted up swinging punching flailing as I once did

(C) Bill Gathan


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