Dennis Mahagin

Grand Mal With Grown Up

Back then there was Grandma,
stuffing your thoughtless pie hole
with a freshly-bought
Ivory soap cake,
after you popped off
to your impressionable siblings
at breakfast, a wisecrack
about the sweet
peach ridge panty cleft
on February’s
Sports Illustrated
swimsuit cover model–lean,
pristine blond goddess straddling
a Rorschach of creamy celluloid surf,
her corded neck and long spine arched
at some kind of impossible angle:

“Potty mouths get washed out!”
cried Grams, as she gripped your forehead
with gnarled, god-fearing hands, and you gagged
and humped your hips against the sink, through
dry heave, through suffocation–wee
lanolin slivers and suds
running off your chin.

And what of Father?
–on the wagon again
with his eyelid tic
and snit fit, rapping your knuckles
with a serrated steak knife blade
–made it clear he didn’t wish to hear
any singing at the dinner tableÉ No,
you didn’t lose your precious voice
on any particular day, but rather
gradually, let it slip away
like a sliver of bathtub lye
withering and winnowing

through prune-fleshed fingertips
–especially around puberty

when they made you strap on
the hot larynx loin cloth with lanyard
puckered as a surgeon’s scrub mask,
and it’s why, to this day you can hear
all the Beatles’ harmonies
in your head, but never
hit themÉ

Someday, you are going
to have your say–Oh,
the sounds you will
make then.


Dennis Mahagin’s poems and stories appear in Exquisite Corpse, 42opus, Stirring, Night Train, Pank, 3AM, Keyhole, Storyglossia, and Smokelong Quarterly. He lives in eastern Washington state.