“Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen,” Danny Kaye sang in Hollywood,
Pretending to be Hans Christian Andersen, a man who made up tales of
Talking cats and mermaids, a man who never heard Orson Welles
Interrupt our radios to report that Martians just invaded New Jersey,
A man who never saw the fair that appeared on the edge of
My hometown every Fall, bright with whirling rides,
Dark with waxy fetuses floating in jars, “You will not believe your eyes”
A voice droned from a crackly speaker and everyone widened theirs,
Greedy to trust the lie of that trashy traveling fantasy,
Cheer on the bloody farce of Fritz Von Erich’s Iron Claw,
Grand Guignol in our junior high gym. I was so terrified of baseball
I told my teammates my dad had a new job with NASA,
We were moving to Houston and I couldn’t play anymore,
My dad, a schoolteacher, working with aerospace engineers –
They looked at me beyond sneering or wonder, my tale told
With the total liberty born of fear, hoping to turn heads from
The dull fact of baseballs fleeing from my bat and glove.
Making up things is a different kind of Houdini trick,
The act ending for most at that lonely moment on their stage
When what they’re saying no longer makes them feel free.
I believed my dad worked for NASA. I still do.
(First published in Willows Wept Review #28, Spring 2023. Thanks to editor Troy Urquhart.)