by William Doreksi
A fish-pond by a stumbledown barn.
A chubby old man and I sit
on the rim and skip stones. Mine
skip a dozen skips, his one or two.
“I admire your style,” he remarks,
“the flip of the wrist, the single knot
of muscle pulsing down the forearm.”
The summer evening throbs with joy.
My former wife and her husband
expect me for dinner a mile
down the road, but I’d rather skip stones
and discuss with the old man habits
of deer that drink from the pond at night
then nibble at his rhubarb plot.
The pond water goes silver, then bronze.
The old man stands and wanders
into the barn. A moment later
a howl as lurid as a werewolf’s
erupts from the ruined hayloft.
I rise, then topple because my feet,
which I’d thrust in the pond to cool,
are gone, the leg-stumps polished
like elegant woodwork, painless.
I hobble to the half-collapsed barn
and drag inside, look up to the loft.
Framed in the trapdoor the old man gloats
with phosphorescent hellfire. My feet,
still in their shoes, dangle, the laces
gripped in the vise of his dentures.
I shout at him to let them go
and he does, laughing, and they fall
and kick me and dance around
awhile before I subdue them.
Grimacing, I screw them on again,
then dash out the door and avoid
the fish-pond, which bubbles and foams
like an acid bath. I run the mile
to the restaurant, slump gasping
at the table where my ex-wife
and her drone of a husband stir
their sweet foolish cocktails and grin.
They imagine I rushed to meet them
out of love or boredom or both,
and haven’t yet noticed the wet
trail I’ve left on the carpet,
a slime of crippled holograph
linking them gladly to the crime.