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Vegas Meditation

September 16, 2010

by Tina Celio

In a dim little corner of a penny slot dungeon,
I begin to take myself too seriously.

Half the merit and value of keeping your hands
busy with a habit or pastime is just that:

putting forth an effort. Showing up.
Developing an appreciative squint.

Watching your breath for a cold spot.
Summoning a kind of begrudging tolerance

of the haggard asthmatics and Buddha-breasted
tourists who ferry in on the mother ship

into this vast, black sea space — motley millions
Hoovered aboard on a neon tractor beam.

The plan rarely accounts for what days and days
will make of the cash-carrying, amoebic masses

astride punchy machines, always waving, snapping
for a new cocktail or looking torturously studied.

Some of us — only some of us — might call
life among transplanted, farmland amnesiacs a living.

I might be one. But not now, lips stuck to the end
of a cigarette, eyes wandering in the shadows

down below their feet, fretting along the twinkly
nonpareil of the arcade, drifting among them

and their felted shuffle, their twittery millabout.
Drink in hand, the eyes run dog-loose.

This other discipline – watching people, sequined
loads of them — to observe, concentrate and be with —

is most serious and important at times like now,
when I’ve put myself in a dim little corner.

I must sit out, reflect. I must will myself out
of a hole. What is it about that flushed,

flat-faced dealer? Is he smiling? Is he giving
something away? I need to keep busy.

That’s why I came, after all — to be here among
the dapper and the housedressed, all of us

doing the same kind of thing not very skillfully.
To seek the universal in the middle class mope

who peers savagely into his bucket, in the rolling
boil of bodies that is mostly a rampant offering of tits,

all hoisted up and ripe with angst to take
what happens as it comes.


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Tina Celio enjoys crowdsurfing as well as occasional crowdpleasing via her website. She holds a bachelor of arts in English from the University of California, Irvine, and lives in Orange County, California.

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  1. September 17, 2010 at 6:52 am

    wonderful,
    i enjoyed this journey and new perspective.
    was just reading a poem about slot machine the other day. this one was the contrast of it…

  2. September 19, 2010 at 11:59 am

    I am writing a series of poems for a chapbook about Vegas, and I wish I had written this one! What a great read.

    “That’s why I came, after all — to be here among
    the dapper and the housedressed, all of us

    doing the same kind of thing not very skillfully.”

    Awesome!

  3. January 18, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    That’s a skillful answer to a diffcuilt question

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