Newbie Down Undah, poetry by Dennis Mahagin

After the Nar­cotics Anony­mous meet­ing, they stopped to chat
under a maple tree in the park­ing lot; she said to him "so… you
wan­na get cof­fee at the IHOP, hon?" He replied "awwww … some
place, yeah, but real­ly, any­where, but there." … They end­ed up
at the Denny's by Port­land State, in a win­dow booth across

from a counter that's the same every­where, real­ly, not so instant
replay, a Polaroid or forgery of one's name. When the coffee
came, she told of get­ting trapped on a cruise ship with this prick
named Tad, who talked and talked non­stop in a fake Australian
accent got real­ly old, real­ly quick, she said, tak­ing a ten­ta­tive sip

of cof­fee. He liked the way she opened the sug­ar pack­ets with a
gap in her front teeth, the lit­tle cream­er con­tain­ers suc­cumb­ing to
thumb nail. He said "well I can only imag­ine," look­ing up to see
the young Jamaican wait­ress in her Kel­ly green dress hum­ming One
by U2 as she held the mud­dy refill pot. His hand shook hovering

no thanks above his cup. She said this guy Tad kept say­ing things
like Oy! defen­es­tra­tion, sub­dur­al hematoma; red skies at night, stuff
like Crikey that's a knife. "It was bad," she said, "real­ly real­ly bad"
He nod­ded past his jit­ters, his naked, nascent sobri­etry; he said

"yeah, so, the pho­ny Aussie Tad, sad killer of the sea cruise," and she
gig­gled a lit­tle; they looked out the win­dow upon a dark­ened Arthur
Street, half past ten at night, swan's neck street­lights blaz­ing through
win­ter mist, hot­house globes the col­or of hon­ey. When she touched
his bare­ly trem­bling hand across the table, his reflec­tion in the glass

did the dou­ble take, he watched stol­id as any plas­tic Ken doll atop
a wed­ding cake. Then a voice came, said fuck­ing be your­self it can't

hurt for­ev­er; he said, "I've only ever rid­den a fer­ry… I guess the fact
is I've been very lone­ly." She was qui­et, as the wait­ress came back
with the same heart-shaped smile, dread­locks swing­ing, she set down
their check. They got up to pay, and she said "that's okay," squeezing
his hand, "on your worst day you're still thou­sands of light years ahead

of Tad." They laughed some more, she said, "so what is it any­way, you
got against IHOP, hon?" that was anoth­er sto­ry, tuck­ing her head into his
shoul­der, how he sup­posed lovers did, well on their way, and he tried
not to trip, through glass doors that rocked on a surf swell into the
night a pure alu­minum star gaz­er God may have right­ed the ship.


Den­nis Mahagin's poems and sto­ries appear in Juked, 42opus, Exquis­ite Corpse, Stir­ring, Absinthe Lit­er­ary Review, 3 A.M., Night Train, PANK, Sto­ry­glos­sia, and Smoke­long Quar­ter­ly, among oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. He is also an edi­tor of fic­tion and poet­ry at FRiGG mag­a­zine. Den­nis lives in Wash­ing­ton state.

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