Joan Colby

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Floyd Collins 

I can’t get it out of my mind.Artwork by Gene McCormick
Wedged like that. In a crevice underground.
Hands trapped at his sides.
He shaped himself wormlike to wiggle
Through the corkscrews which worked until
A pitbull rock dislodged to seize and hold his ankle.

He’d spent a lifetime in these caves. It wasn’t as if
He didn’t know his trade. The thrill of discovery,
A hall of glittering stalactites. Of gypsum flowers.
This time had been a disappointment. A dark
Smoked cavern with no enhancements. He was
On the way out when it happened.

Three days waiting. Then the relief of voices.
They’d dig away the gravel that
Kept sifting. Somehow slide his body from
This coffin. The story is famous. Thousands gathered
Around bonfires, eating and drinking. The newsmen
Had a heyday. All the while he suffered
And hoped which was the worst.

Maybe he gave up when another cave-in
Blocked access and he could no longer see
Anything. I keep on thinking how he must
Have felt in that underworld. You know how
This ended. They sank a shaft too late
And even then they couldn’t retrieve him.

Imagine wedged; rocks gripping you so tight
You could hardly breathe, much less move
A finger or turn your head. Trapped
Like a sausage in a petrified bun,
A knife in a rusted sheath,
A key in a frozen lock. The limestone
Fit his body like a suit of underwear
As if all these years this spot had carved itself
To await his coming.


Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New York Quarterly, the new renaissance, Grand Street, Epoch, and Prairie Schooner.Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, Rhino Poetry Award, the new renaissance Award for Poetry, and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She was a finalist in the GSU Poetry Contest (2007), Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize (2009, 2012), and received honorable mentions in the North American Review's James Hearst Poetry Contest (2008, 2010). She is the editor of Illinois Racing News and lives on a small horse farm in Northern Illinois. She has published 10 books including The Lonely Hearts Killers, The Atrocity Book and her newest book from Future Cycle Press—“Dead Horses.” FutureCycle will also publish “Selected Poems” in 2013.