Summer Lee © 2004 All Rights Reserved


Elegy for the Strongest Man in the World

The Strongest Man in the World has been killed by his own heart.
Angioplasty couldnít save him, nor could the Smallest Woman,
the Fire Eater, or the Great Hermaphrodite. They were all of them
surprised, although according to recently published medical journals,

this could have been predicted if heíd been tested to see in which way
his genes might fail him. Even without his suit printed with the terrible
black eyes of leopards, he could disarm a crowd with nothing but a slideshow,
etymologies of images unfurrowing themselves in his brain so quickly

they appeared to be the way things had always been: Of course
the woman in this photo didnít know the mountain she stood before
was made of cardboard and in fact hid a legendary fortune. This is the unwitting heir
to the throne of Spain, and the glass he drinks from will be his end,

which will lead to the installment of a half-dumb general
and a bloodless coup.
The crowd cheered, delighted
with the combination of image and explanation.
He may have carried the weight of a genetic thumbprint

that would link him to the very tribe that travelled first
to the Asian continent. But itís unlikely. How could a bloodline so persistent
allow him to die at 53? Doctors have also been known to die,
as have mad scientists, and beautiful women. The Strongest Man in the World

was privately named Karl, and he ran the circus. His sister hadnít seen him
since they were children, and this is the sadness of his death.
They were to meet the next day, but his sadness is private also.
We think Karl had a sister. We know when he spoke of her he loved her.

Mary Austin Speaker
Copyright © 2004

Mary Austin Speaker lives in Bloomington, Indiana, where sheís finishing her MFA degree at Indiana University. She teaches writing and edits poetry for the Indiana Review, and has work in or forthcoming in Rattapallax, BigCityLit, Spork and the Seattle Review.

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