Ventriloquist on an Off Day

Tucked in felt cases, his quiet ones sleep
the sleep of molded plastic—he walks unknown

parks and blocks.  Just happy to be here,
he says, bearing the city air: rainwater, soot.

He doesn’t search for better ways to fool
an audience
or an oriole in summer weeds.

No journey back for youth’s sea glass
or the seven thumping castles of bachelordom—

so much desire then he could taste a current
scoring the air between his and other bodies.

Once he felt the pull of it he would recall
his hand on a van der Graaf machine at school:

each hair on end.
It’s the same now, except

he leans into the charged fields
with no designs on their end.  And still

the arcing current will not dissipate
and beats all day beside his actual heart.


Appeared originally in Blackbird.