See the boy, standing in front of a payphone.
Picking up the receiver, dialing, hanging up.
His ankles dusty, legs, burnt brown, still tubby
like a baby’s. Shame long gone from his face,
streaks of tears that parted the dirt and snot
on his nose and cheeks, chest bare, almost naked,
but for his sagging underwear. His arms strung
with muscle, his mouth frowned as he lipped
his name into the phone. It was almost graceful
how he sat there against the post of the phone,
knees together, toes gripping the sidewalk,
wishing the guts of metal would ring. I imagined
some kind of trouble, long nights breathing
in the dirt, bruised remnants of clutches
from shoulder to face, forehead lumped up
where knuckles struck, when his face rung,
knees buckled. I imagined a dawn lit house
were the shrugs and pitch of sleep told him
to scout his own food in the half-hinged icebox.
When pained groans of vice sent him to the phone
with emergency, not knowing what number
to punch, what things to say on the street corner,
when the cars revved, engines rumbled deep.
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“Mangled and the Demon” is a piece of a longer serial poem about a character named Mangled Creekbed. At this point in Mangled’s life he has since left the circus, as a performer, and has taken to wandering the countryside doing odd jobs. The serial poem as a whole consists of 30 poems, in prose and verse forms.
Santee Frazier is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. He holds a BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts and an MFA from Syracuse University. He is the recipient of various awards including: The Truman Capote Scholarship, Syracuse University Fellowship, Lannan Foundation Residency Fellowship, and is currently the Lannan Foundation Indigenous Writer Fellow. His poems have appeared in American Poet, Narrative Magazine, Ontario Review, Ploughshares, and other literary journals. His first collection of poems Dark Thirty was released by the University of Arizona Press in 2009.