David Duncan

Liberace at Rogers Spring

It’s a nice place to visit even though it’s only about 30 feet across, not much of a hike from spillway to spring. The water’s only lukewarm. It smells like sulfur and sewage and the pool has brain-eating amoeba being advertised on a big, red and white sign. That may not sound very appealing if you’re kinesthetic or even a little bit olfactory so don’t go swimming there like that guy with his snorkel on YouTube. I’m glad there’s pretty much never anyone else around – just a car driving in or out every 15 minutes or so. It keeps the yoga crowd from setting up colorful foam pads in the parking lot. Anyway, I’m just here to see Liberace. That’s what I call the one iridescent purple fish who is always swimming near the spillway. He’s not so much a big fish with a grand piano as a bright fish in a backwater pond where the only way out to reach a wider audience is the small waterfall down to a drainage pipe – it crosses under the road and into a gully that somehow finds its way across miles of desert to Lake Mead. So maybe you start to think sharing a pond with a single-celled boogeyman isn’t really so bad. Liberace is a Cichlid – which sounds like he’s into hip-hop and flat-brimmed baseball hats that don’t come in his size and I’d like to think he has a story about how he’s a long way from home seeing as he’s native to Africa and living in Nevada. Even if the truth isn’t really all that interesting, like maybe a little girl with an aquarium fish she loves and she’s leaving town to go to Reno for a field trip and she has to stash her fish somewhere safe or her big, dumb brother will do something big and dumb but her parents won’t let him because the sign says brain-eating and she’s pretty sure that still applies to her brother. Sometimes I feel bad for Liberace, stuck out here away from all the action, no groupies and that really limits his dating prospects which doesn’t seem fair for a polygamous mouthbrooder like himself. All the native species are like “hey, invasive boy, what’s your kink” and he says “polygamous mouthbrooder” and their eyes get narrow and they inflate their cheeks like they’re thinking really hard and he says “yeah, like that, that’s hot” and they’re like “what, oh, okay, yeah, you like that bright boy, you’re a naughty little fish” and they smile and so he flashes his egg spots and they’re like “why is the water suddenly so cloudy and salty” and he’s like “I know right, what was that” then he tells them the story he heard where Neil Armstrong says “Good luck Mr. Gorsky” when he’s getting back into the capsule on the moon even though Snopes says it never happened. That’s a pretty scandalous description of his reproductive cycle so best to keep it on the down-low. You can look it up on Wikipedia if you missed any of it and it’s okay to talk about as long as people understand you’re on about ichthyofauna which is such a great word for “fish” that I really want to use it in a poem someday but I doubt I ever will because, you know, you gotta keep up a certain image so you don’t lose your fans. Just being the super-visible, stand-out, bright fish in a small pond or just, you know, different, but not in a bad way, just, you know, different well that’s a risk sometimes with herons and other sharp-beaked types about so either you be you and hope you look like, you taste like, this place smells or maybe you dial it back and the world maybe never gets to see you perform on the big stage but you get to see it spin around a bit longer and that’s a tough lesson about life and choices for a little girl or a bright fish. I like to think about that a lot as Liberace’s darting back and forth across the spillway past all the sturdy-looking black and white striped fish, flashing his jewel-toned scales as the sunlight sparkles over the water.

David Duncan is a poet and storyteller from the Southwestern United States. His work has appeared in, or is forthcoming from, Milk Carton Press, About Place Journal, Zeitgeist Press, and The National Library of Poetry. He can be found performing online and at open mic’s in the Las Vegas area.