Billy Mays In Purgatory

By Dennis Mahagin

Posted on

They called it something brand new.
Said it surpassed hard candy, snuff flicks,
or huffing Jefferson airplane glue. Pink
lemonade, a chaser: “It gives you a nice blank
feeling,” said the bleach blonde on QVC, quite
unlike snack cracker, creme filling or Mars
bar, clumps of wet sand squeezing through
the sun burned toes, erosion on the banks
of hometown rivers; they called it something
almost (not quite) Frank O’Hara with no sweat
in white linen suit, buzz cut and serendipity, ripping up
Lotto tickets on the sidewalk because there’s nothing
else to do. “But only the fact, that there’s nothing else
to do,” they made Frank say it “nothing
else to do.”

In a moment some cube of lemon light went
down, on cue, dappling the basement floor, about four
by eight inches fugitive from dirty casement window to
concrete; it was like that, and nothing more, although
they swore up and down it was so original, nobody
had ever seen it before; not in the purest torpor of three
thirty death in the afternoon, nor bubbly gin fizz
as bas relief etched out of pores, when you
know it in your funny bone, they said sit up
ram straight as a biker passing through, they
swore under a ton of sun, it was a new thing, a new
thing too precious to waste, or hesitate; I bought it
for awhile felt quite silken, as folds of alien skin.
Before it got old, in the few milliseconds
left I thought of you.

Dennis Mahagin

Author’s Note:

“Billy Mays in Purgatory” was inspired by a Dorianne Laux poem, “Late Night TV,” from her excellent collection, The Book of Men.