Jellyfish 1.0 | Spring 2009 | leave the archives

Jeff Downey is from the panhandle of Nebraska but currently lives in Amherst, MA, where he co-edits the newly-founded Microfilme Magazine. His poems have appeared in Handsome, RealPoetik, and Octopus.

Jeff Downey

The Whole Ball of Wax Museum Assassins


It was January. One only observed
Silence and held up binoculars

Seeing how any starlings at an inaugural look
A murmuration, our anarchist rather

Distrusted the interval in at
At this, at needling times like this when

Such as with chamoix and columnar architecture
There’s carryover from the Continent

One interrogation, the attempter took a hundred
Quid pro quos before even confessing

What his tattoos meant
They were nothing as archaic as cimarron or chinook

The keystones of which we already knew
Ibex and sirocco were legends

But what else he could have done with
A cutting stylus except rut

His way out of the question
We were eventually let in on

How his plans had been to shoulder
The wait and have

Some steely reserve, knowing that one’s
Chances would improve in the improv

Of relocating to Buffalo, which they did
And the shots at the president

Who happened to be attending the very convention
X-rays were initially exhibited at

First grazed then went through
The stomach, pancreas, and kidney

Before lodging in the muscles of his back
The president whispered to his secretary, George Cortelyou

“My wife, Cortelyou, be careful how
You tell her, oh be careful

During this whispering, the anarchist would have fired
Again, he said, but was struck by a bystander and then

Subdued by the enraged crowd
At which point, the wounded

President called out “Boys
Don’t let them hurt him

One imagines because he thought he would make it
But his doctors didn’t trust the safety of the machines

Preferring to dig by the light properly
Arranged pans recurved into the room

From down the hallway, up the stairs
And outside where the sun was

By all accounts and records, startling