Cliffhanger – Ronald Tobey

“She’ll howl like a dog”
my wife predicted laughing
at my evening phone query
from a hotel lobby pay booth,
what is performance art?
And the actress, it was in the script,
distressed by chemically poisoned rotting fish,
found no other way to express
but tear off her clothes
face the audience nude
howl at the moon hanging
from the stage fly tower
above a village, a bay, in Japan.
Show stopper.
Several Pasadena ladies leave their seats
and don’t return.
I should have smelled a clue
To night’s disastrous curtain.

A Southern California evening warm
I walk from the theater to Bonaventure Hotel
the route I know well
past a few restaurants
alley dumpsters bulging with food garbage
plump rats own the sidewalks
parade boldly
Spanish speaking streets
biggest Mexican shopping district
outside Mexico City
by darkened business offices
steel gates barricading vestibules
and fortified apartment buildings.

Gray sidewalks narrow from block to block
start out as 8-foot walkways
become 4
shrink to two curbs width.
I navigate by dead reckoning
counting blocks and intersections
the 35-story glass and steel cylinders
the Bonaventure hotel in view
four booster rockets strapped to a space craft
The noise became fierce the closer I came to the hotel
roar I remember of Niagara Falls
standing on a platform in the spray
a world dropping into a hole
I discover myself on a sheer cliff
top of a freeway concrete retaining wall
1-foot wide
abutting the gray concrete foundation
of an office building
I stand fifty feet above the Harbor Freeway
four lanes, each direction,
10:30 at night
river of headlights
cars ten feet apart 50 mph
late rush hour traffic.
I become dizzy
I feel vertigo pull me into the frenzy
my scrotum retracts in fear
sunken trench
Dante’s Ante Hell.
I looked away into the night sky.
I press myself into the building behind me
shuffle inch by inch to the left
not raising my feet.
5 yards.
Reality is an illusion, Sly,
which cannot be disbelieved.
My life burns at the edges
cellulose nitrate film in an overheated projector.


The Cabinet Of Heed Issue 28 Contents Link

Image via Pixabay

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