Dan Reilly

poetry & short fiction


Dei Ex Machina

Nut is dying. Nut, my mother the sky goddess who swallows the sun each day then gives birth to light in the morning, lies weak on a narrow pallet in her small room of many gilt-edged mirrors and an old china cabinet of curved glass. She is dark as the earth beneath us, her eyes blackened from death, and she's languid, turning her head slowly, sighing. What can we do without her, I wonder, as we reminisce about our past together, my childhood, and a trip to Atlantic City, a long wooden pier, the hot sun.

“It’s summer,” she says, “you children are eight or ten years old.”

“Yes," I reply, "the hotel window is tall, opens in with no screen. Nothing between me and the ocean’s horizon.”

“The bicycles.”  

Her laugh, ever so slight, raises infinitesimal motes of dust twinkling dimly in the air between us like distant constellations brought close.

“Your father rents bicycles built for two.”

The beach sand is warm, fine. Bright crystals reflect in the child’s fingers that are my fingers, now, years later. My bones are these grains of sand, faraway tiny little bits, my bones, my loves, my everything, cascading between fingers. Human phantasms walk the boardwalk in blinding sunlight, or glide-by silently on wide-tired bicycles, a tableau, a drama staged by surrealists . . . dei ex machina, the gods descend, the gods descend.

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Short Fiction


The automobile propels us insanely down a long hill. Tremendous wind through open windows deafens, leaving us without voice. Sunup to sundown across scorched dirt and asphalt makes us thankful for the desert’s night air. Below in darkness, we see lights. A small village, looks like. Our driver notices something amiss and slows our ninety-mile-an-hour storm. A sickening twist to the vehicle’s rear, with horrific screeching of metal, shortens our breath. Barely in control, the driver slides us sideways off the road into a dirt parking lot at the bottom of the hill. The car tips dangerously then crunches back down onto its springs.

Climbing out, shaking, can barely see for the spiraling red dirt. There are cars and trucks nearby. A few hundred miles back, we bought new tires. Only two of five lugs attach the misshapen wheel behind my seat, and they are worn from violent vibration, the tire flat and smoking. The driver saved our lives, I tell them. The others blame him for our misfortune even as he brings tools and kneels before the wheel. I am not of their race and so choose not to interfere. Clearing dust and a glance around reveals the large canvas tent of a traveling revivalist church. We hear the faithful repeat words of God. Across the road, a diner is open with its lone gas pump, and beyond, in a field closer to the little town, the din and many-hued lights of a one ring circus.

Push the car away from here, I say, show respect for the worship. Don’t anger these folks. No one cares to push. The driver’s hammer clanging against wrench and chisel attracts one of the preachers who appears suddenly, examining our plight.

“The wheel will turn no more,” says the preacher.

We all agree. A flask passes. Preacher declines. He’s a sad-looking fellow. He convinces them to abandon the repair until the service concludes. The driver stays with the car. Everyone else walks to the diner. Only I continue on to the circus.

I buy admission to the tattered big top and sit on old wooden bleachers amidst a hundred or more whose skin is the color of my own. Where do they come from, I wonder. A petite young woman, also of my race, rides a tremendous Andalusian rapidly around and around the center circle. She moves freely on the great horse without hindrance of velocity or gravity. Her broad smile revolves over the pounding animal and seems to be the equilibrant between woman and horse.

The sound of hoofbeats changes somehow, becomes sharper and out of rhythm. The equestrian rises above her horse and floats backwards through the air into the chain fence behind the ring. There are more of the staccato blasts. Without rider, the horse has no direction and crashes out of the ring. The crowd stands as one even as I see the widening stain on the rider’s chest. She’s pinned against the enclosure by gunfire like a scrap of blown paper. She hangs there almost horizontal as if still flying atop the great grey horse. There is a stampede of panicked flight. I stumble and fall, get up and grasp a little girl in my arms. Her grief-washed eyes are beyond fear, even for one so young. She sobs and sobs. My chest twitches wrenchingly against her face as my heart, which had been closed and small, expands to embrace the shattered bits of life around me, and the pain – the pain of my people.
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Beyond Words – Literary Magazine – Googy Round the World

Dan Reilly reading of Googy Round the World.


Dan Reilly - poet and writer of short fiction

Dan Reilly lives in the Adirondacks where he enjoys writing, mountain biking and skiing.

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