Sleeping on the Pacific Surfliner
I dream some sleek version of myself,
haunting Santa Monica Pier’s
ghost town arcade, pale skin
scorched from morning surf.
In the ventilated dark, infinite
tokens weigh my pockets
as I peer at a time-dusted claw
machine containing a single prize:
Donald Duck wristwatch blinking
blue-light harmonies to pulse
the lazy sun-beat season. Jostling
joystick, I perfect new ways to fail
since winning means Game Over
and ownership of the excess
gimcrack jilted by previous winners.
Like a clearance aisle’s last designer scarf,
it looks doomed just for being here.
Steel claw fumbling in air, the clock
-face swirls counter-wise: I lose
the days away—the only game
worth playing. With each fake attempt,
time unzips age’s stuffy garments,
till I shrink from the glass display’s view.
Unable to reach, the minute-hand’s
march loses meaning. The prospect of winning:
less cheap consolation and more akin
to salt breeze blowing through arcade
doors; familiar breath tingling fragile spine
or loose hand grazing grand piano keys,
teasing desire’s slow song from untried lungs.
Outside, a carousel’s burning bulbs supplant
the sunset. Doo-wop chokes from Ferris wheel
speakers. The evening tide breaks into chants
faintly sounding my name, while I bask
in the cool blue light of the unobtainable,
learning what it means to want.
TOM KELLY is coordinator for Old Dominion University's Writers in Community outreach in Norfolk, Virginia. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Southeast Review, Gulf Stream, Gargoyle, FreezeRay, among others. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SAMANTHA FORTENBERRY is a photographer from a small town in Northern Alabama. She currently studies at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. Ever since high school she's taken a passion to photography and photographs various subjects from surreal landscapes to fine art nudes and everything in between. Website: samanthafortenberry.com