by Tony Tracy
The phenomenon is irrefutable; a true scientific
and earthly wonder, mathematical improbability
that leaves scholars of astrology scratching
their heads to explain, and pundits of scripture and
Christianity gawking through their $10 cardboard
sunglasses as midday light turns shadowless and
the sky takes on an eerie, blue metallic sheen⸺
cosmological evidence, they say, God is at the center
of all things. It’s like Evolutionism vs. Creationism,
both lacking that single key ingredient, smoking gun
of empirical evidence that solves the single most
human mystery: origin. But sometimes it’s the lack
of answers that makes us who we are, buoys us like
a giant life-preserver, spawns intangible words such
as hope and faith; a belief in something, somewhere
in the cosmos that is waiting to fill us with radiance
like a private, invisible sun. But it’s no secret
what’s going on here, the whole world is attuned
to the miracle of being shaded by a single shadow,
that the moon, which is exactly 400 x’s smaller,
will pass in front of the sun, which is exactly 400 x’s
further, so perfectly, so precisely, the rarity of its
necessary mathematics so staggering, even the theorem
is viewed as flitting on the edge of insanity.
The physiography of a total eclipse akin to finding
God’s face in a solar flare, or the hard data between
ape and man just beyond the shadow’s penumbra.
Eye-balled like we are potential terrorists, or Western tourists moving through
customs in the old Soviet-Bloc, i.d.’s are checked and rechecked. Guards
don’t acknowledge one another. Appear tight-lipped, chisel-faced statues,
robotic figures incapable of allowing even a sprig of levity to lighten
the moment. After all, this isn’t some swap-meet, some coffeehouse gallery, some fussy
antique shop we’ve come to stuffed with an endless display of Queen Anne relics and French doilies, a neighborhood garage sale replete with dusty
heirlooms and racks of greasy automotive parts ( the rust-pitted jem of
Duesenberg or Packard grill found only in an episode of American Pickers ),
but a real timeauction of wealth seized from raids on dirty millionaires’ estates⸺ highly sought collectibles of museum quality placed under bullet-proof
plexi. So on a whim, on a rainy, lackluster Saturday, we’ve come to
the Ramada Tropics Resort to gawk at how the other half lives. The spoils of money’s
excess doesn’t disappoint. Housed below hawking eyes— the crazy mix of silk rugs and bronze busts, serigraphs and lithographs graced with authenticated
signatures of Pissaro and Chagall, Dali and Miró, the impenetrable blue
of some trophy wife’s 9 ct. Tanzanite, its cool mint counterpart of a Paraiba Tourmaline,
I kid my wife, that once laid on the slope of Coppertone Valley,
sparkling under a maritime sun between the Silicone Peaks. Naturally, she finds
no humor there while the ratta tat tat of a auctioneer prattles numbers
that climb higher and higher with seemingly no ceiling in sight: 23, 23 do I hear twenty
-three thousand? We walk past locked FDIC tables towards the fray percolating around an easel. The painting up for bid: an Itzchak Tarkay with women and flowers and teapots and tables and the deepest hues I’ve ever
seen in acrylic, one of ten originals come to bear. Sometimes it’s the simplest things
that exact ridiculous prices. The grandeur of smaller moments signed
with a hand’s flourish. The beauty of private life purchased over and over again.
An acquisition of the muse’s intelligence costing us big time.
Of Thousands: An Eternal Lament
The Bibbs’ eastern windows are slate-grey,
except the gable’s triad which has caught
the sunrise in panorama, display
of molten light⸺ three dizzying spots
where color between volcanic red
and canary yellow a bomb gone off⸺
fiery fusillade, end-time spread
across glass where I imagine heavy loss
and hell’s ruin; then heroic dream⸺
climbing through toppled layers of steel,
pulverized concrete and smoking I-beams⸺
to rise into a shattered cathedral
once a lobby’s façade. None ever did.
Besides the rapture, eyes forever hid.
Sailing over the Black Hills,
a Lakota warrior chiseled in hewn.
The static voice of the captain fills
the cabin, overdubs Dire Straits on iTunes
with info on landmarks and flight-time,
current temp and weather in Sin City.
Still hours from touchdown, from crazy nights
of slots and booze⸺ drama of Billy
Idol at our hold ‘em table in a drunken
sneer of himself as I try to catch
a royal flush on the flop. The outspoken
is the Vegas rule, only place to hatch
life as a grotesque. Demand for MTV
old school: Money for nothin’, Chicks for free.
Land of Bizarro
Inside the skirted fender, gravel ricocheted off the wheel
well, whizzed and pinged. Oh how it rang out, the spray
sounding like bullets missing the flesh of their intended targets.
I remember listening as I flinched from the trunk— endorphin’s
rush of being smuggled into the Drive-In, a kid’s fantasy
hatched in the dark. Tonight, on A&E, movie-making that glorified
the horror of living “The Sicilian Way”⸺ that gruesome scene
from Casino where Pesci’s Santoro is released from tail-fins,
the Nevada stars burning overhead as some low-level mafioso
hands him a shovel, orders him to dig a double grave at gunpoint⸺
one for him and his blindfolded brother. It’s moments like these
where I flee by osmosis, disappear into the land of bizarro—
those Friday nights sneaking into the Mason City Drive-In.
How it felt so criminal, so epiphanic escaping that cavernous
shell I shared with a spare and a tire-jack, to be helped
from the trunk and handed a Coors— my aunt’s reward
for the ten-year-old who endured the journey— salty beverage
that primed the pump for an evening’s double-feature
of guts & gore, troubling addiction that would last a lifetime.
But how unlike drinking to be released from that oblivion,
from above the signature badging, gangster whitewalls of her
’73 Coup de Ville, believing this must be what the dead felt like,
what it feels like to be dead— the key unhinging the latch,
the giant carapace swinging open like a coffin’s lid to reveal
Orion tracking through the night sky, reminding I knew nothing
about death or dying, nothing about the monumental jolt
of heartache that follows, nothing of loss outside the movies,
any world beyond the scaffolding of the giant wooden screen—
not even the fact that the light that reached us arrived from
a place vanished long ago.
About the Author:
Tony Tracy is the author of two collections of poetry, The Christening and Without Notice. His work is forthcoming or has recently appeared in Flint Hills Review, North American Review, Poetry East, Hotel Amerika, Potomac Review and various other magazines and journals.