This Magazine

Progressive politics, ideas & culture

November-December 2010

Great Canadian Literary Hunt 2010: Evel Knievel Negotiates the Fountain at Caesar’s Palace by Jim Johnstone

Jim JohnstoneWebsite

We’re posting the winners of the 2010 Great Canadian Literary Hunt all this week. Come back daily for amazing new poetry, fiction, and graphic narrative. And stay tuned for the 2011 contest announcement, coming in January…

Heard myself speak fluently in my own language,
have heard myself too described as hard work
(as hard to get through as Scotch broth), though once
someone rather bladdered told me I was magnetic.

—Roddy Lumsden, Hard Work

Behold my face at a quarter turn: dragonly,
dog-eared, a carnal mask mirroring
half-lit spits of wood. This morning
Nevada furrows, my shoulders
too warm for leather; yet I’ve no better
armour against the wind, the stagey
palms that threaten to bend and replace
my stationary ramps, Caesar’s fountain.
Downrange, I prepare to be bandaged,
hear myself speak fluently in my own language:

“Bridge the strips around my bicep.
It’s where I… fuck, not like that. Grip
the razor down-hilt… there. Push…
shit… it won’t…”. I turn my gaze
towards the melee that surrounds
my bike, making’s landfill a network
of forgotten jumps, a backwards glance
before a maelstrom of sand. Derelict,
I’ve seen how closely my muse lurks,
have heard myself described as hard work:

having the face of an eagle, lion and ox.
Tricked out in off-white chaps, cape,
the valley of the shadow of death,
I gauge the line from rubber to ramp:
uncamp its frame on doubled wings.
Fountain-side, Romans balance,
flock to witness my ramshackle horse couple
with sky: behold my stance,
my corrugated flanks that rake the air, its absence
(as hard to get through as Scotch broth), though once

I groped around and found myself
unmoored at latitude. What mechanics
hold me, having already landed,
what patience, body tossed ass-first
over the gas-tank’s hive? The desert
revives as if in dream: my head a brick,
a helmeted weathervane unraveling
in every plane at once. Lo, it’s clear
that this is paradise, and if given a mic
someone rather bladdered will tell me I’m magnetic.

Jim Johnstone is a Toronto-based writer and physiologist. His blog can be found at
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