The Dance of the Man on the Warning Sign

OCTOBER 2008: POETRY

by Robert Lowes

I slip on a glaze of water.
I touch a hot wire and hop.
When the bar of the gate descends on my head,
I stagger and throw up my hands.
The dance of the man on the warning sign.
Attention. Achtung. Cuidado.

Kids giggle and slap their knees
at my stick anatomy,
the skeleton of human error,
the clown of consequence.
The dance of the man on the warning sign.
Attention. Achtung. Cuidado.

In the caves of the stone-ax chippers,
I was drawn by flickering torch,
shaking the cobra off my hand,
tugging my leg from the wolf.
The dance of the man on the warning sign.
Attention. Achtung. Cuidado.

In Birmingham or Baghdad,
wherever they trigger a bomb,
my body erupts like pick-up sticks,
my head’s as loose as a cloud.
The dance of the man on the warning sign.
Attention. Achtung. Cuidado.

I jump from a woman’s caressing
when her husband bursts through the door.
His buckshot lifts me off my feet,
head over heels to the end.
The dance of the man on the warning sign.
Attention. Achtung. Cuidado.

Call it a slapstick ballet.
I fall for my sins every day.
I wait for a hand to jot me two dots,
vision for dodging the broom.
The dance of the man on the warning sign.
Attention. Achtung. Cuidado.

Robert Lowes is a journalist who lives with his wife Saundra in St. Louis, Missouri. His poems have appeared in such publications as The New Republic, The Jabberwock Review, the Tampa Review, the Christian Century, and Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics.