Rigmarole, c. 1944-45


Joseph Tate








Heard the humdinger about Procrus [eyeroll]

-tes? Here goes ole whatshisname etc.,


you know the drill: a peg-leg joke, forced laughter that

fades into the AM static, so back to re-


ambulation, another stumblebum turn round the

shallow end. The hospital pool refracting the


Temple, TX sky—turquoise spilled to

earth and cupped in the quilted patterns of


white porcelain tiles, chlorinated water glittering into millions of

hard beads of pearlescent light.







Through a reforested clearing—

hail clattering like hard beads of pearlescent light


in the sour pine-straw

—they evacuated you down the firebreak track


to a medical tent sagging with wet snow, to a table for far

-forward operations. The litter perched on two


rail assemblies, their aluminum poles frozen cold and/or

cool as [exeunt. Squibb ether:


the sweet smell of rainwater left long in the galvanized trough]

a riverbank slope where a common bird drinks.







There’s a riverbank slope where a common bird drinks—

crab-apple round body, feathers


smoothed to a crystalline brown where walleye [wawil-eȝed

< vagl-eyg] spawn, whitetail antlers form and fork, a


Bradford pear is pruned, the plum tree heavy with its

stone fruit [plowmes, perys], some blighted on


the boughs, bending. Decayed soft

tissue, scent of rotted apricot ± spotted skin, phthalo green.


They will (hallway rigmarole: transfemoral πρόσθεσις,

pneumatic tourniquet, used syrettes) need to take more.







Postoperative rigmarole: transfemoral prothesis.

Psychiatrist, chaplain—your choice. But whatabout:


a red skirt that grows redder each twirl. Or

the wild lazuli of bluebonnets in full blossom


blazing up from escaped asphalt substrate—a sidewalk

race on stumblebum crutches, their stiff clang & bump,


their sunshine-hot handgrips, new ebonite ferrules catching

the concrete's control joints, the


pavement seams bursting with emerald strands

of the youngest, the tenderest grass.









Joseph Tate’s poems and multimedia work have appeared in Measure, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Euphony, The Found Poetry Review, The Kudzu Review, E·ratio, Yemassee and other publications.  He has published and lectured on Radiohead, Shakespeare and prosody. 



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