The Petrified Man

By Pamela Davis

Featured Art by William Trost Richards

It’s dead August, a go nowhere night, and I take
Mom’s Chevy Monza, pick up a girlfriend,
head down to the Nu-Pike amusement park
at the shore. We’re sixteen and sunburnt,
peasant blouses, short-shorts, ready.

Dad taught me to swim in the park’s domed pool,
ankles glitter-kicking past mosaic tile,
but only the Cyclone Racer’s left now,
a tattoo booth, dime-toss swindles, some freak shows.
Mary Lee says the senior boys hang out by the roller coaster

and heads that way. A hand holds me back by the arm,
hoarse voice coaxes
             Hey girlie, wanna see a man hard as a rock?

Shoved from behind—I stumble—almost fall
onto a body, ageless, naked, diapered like a baby
on a table. It’s airless as a crypt. His face narrow.
Is he real? The barker’s dank breath, a nudge
toward the table,
                Touch him.

I reach my finger to the dry, shinydrab thigh.
Nothing moves but a black electric clock jerking
second-to-second, hands vacuuming time
from the room. The carny demands a dollar, I pull

a crumpled one from my pocket,
back out like a low-slung cat.
The Bearded Woman leans
against a wall, cigarillo loose
on her bottom lip. She spits,
                Look, it’s the girl who touched the Petri ed Man.

I’m sixteen, sunburned, picking my way
along the gritty beach, screams falling
from the shuddering coaster. The moon
stares me down, the sand swallows
my steps, and the tide rushes forward,
slick with neon.

Pamela Davis, a native Californian, is the author of Lunette (2015). Her poems are found in Prairie Schooner, Smartish Pace, Folio, Cimarron Review, Sou’wester, Zone 3, Natural Bridge, and Nimrod (semi-finalist, Neruda Award), and a finalist for American Literary Review’s Poetry Award. A graduate of San Francisco State University, she is a co-founder of the Independent Writers of Southern California. Davis lives and hikes in the hills of Santa Barbara with her husband and two yellow labs, where she’s at work on her second volume of poems.

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