by Eric Fischman
We sit in a jagged circle in a university basement and pass around the needle. Eleven poets dance on the head of this pin. Somewhere nearby clowns are clowning. A woman plays dangerously with power drills beside me. The pipes bang. One after another they hand it off, plunging into pulp like samurai performing seppuku. Sometimes they shiver. Sometimes they scream. The first dip is the best, they say.
When it’s my turn I hesitate. I can feel the friction of their eyes. Eleven heat-producing bodies are directed straight at me. Is that condensation or sweat on my brow? No matter now. I wipe my forehead with the back of my hand; grip the needle tightly. Come on, do it, they seem to say. Don’t you want to be cool? Don’t you want to be a poet? The truth is I don’t know what I want. I am a junkyard of nerves, but suddenly my hands are steady as if they’ve been here, as if they know the territory. Before I can think the order, my body executes, cutting a yard of waxed linen thread and passing it through the needle’s eye. How many of us would fit through there? Which among us is so righteous? My fingers dance along the cover, night-sky purple pilfered from a king’s cloak, inked in gold leaf, in oil filigree. I watch helpless as they part the book down the middle and from the center outward make the first loop.
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