Contagious Ecstasy of Bravado
Have you never heard of King, the musher
up in Nome? Or Salem, his lead dog
who fortified the Iditarod team
past twenty-four village checkpoints,
over two mountain ranges, along the wide
Yukon River, up the stretch sliding
on the iced-in coast of the Bering Sea,
down into town, into
the winners circle under flashbulbs and feast lights
and Northern lights, and the beam
of a full moon corona?
Front page photo flash of light yellow roses
in a garland around his neck. This dog’s
the one who ran King’s team loose, after King,
on the coldest night
toppled off the sled. He fell into fatigue’s
deep snow, struggling to stand, watching
his rig vanish like a candle guttering in the winter air,
his life and his victory running away.
Redeeming the space between his lips and teeth King
shrilled across the frozen lay.
Who knows what goes through dogs’ minds?
Surprisingly Salem acquiesced, turned the team.
King re-mounted. Have you
never once broken free helter-skelter hard
on the lip of oblivion? Have you, thrashed
ticking off your debts unable
to sleep or bellowed
alone out loud on the freeway?
Have you rehearsed, down
to the exact pitch of your voice your
goodbye but then backed out at a wisp of her cologne?
Who knows what goes through your mind turning
to your morning toast, folding the newspaper,
assuring her–We’ll come out ahead next time
“Contagious Ecstasy of Bravado” is reprinted from Gander Press Review (Spring 2009)
Carol Levin’s full volume, Stunned By the Velocity, appeared 2012 from Pecan Grove Press. Pecan Grove Press also published Carol Levin’s chapbook, Red Rooms and Others (2009). Her chapbook Sea Lions Sing Scat came out with Finishing Line Press in 2007. Her work appears or is forthcoming in The Louisville Review, The New York Quarterly, Verse Wisconsin, The Massachusetts Review, Third Coast, OVS Magazine,The Pedestal Magazine, Fire On Her Tongue, Two Sylvias Press, Raven Chronicles, The Mom Egg and many others. Levin is an Editorial Assistant for the Crab Creek Review. She teaches the The Breathing Lab /Alexander Technique, in Seattle.