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Kid Icarus

B.J Best



I. Underworld.


Why you, post-retirement, had a Nintendo was beyond me. For Duck Hunt, sure; you even painted and modified the sights of the gun for better aim. You shot at the dog, just like I did, when he mocked you.



But this game made no sense: smiling snakes and red eyeball-things, and you a fruity, flying angel. Icky Kid, you called it, as I sat on your living-room floor ascending the levels with grade-school ease.



II. Overworld.


Later, you stood on the pier, searching for muskie and lazily twirling the reel. Through fishing, your hands had learned grace: the weight of the rod, the skein of a net, even how to tie jigs—a pink head with white-feathered body, you found, usually worked best.



My brother watched behind you, unaware. You flipped the rod back and a hook caught his ear; then you rolled your wrist forward in the arc of a cast. After the expected hysterics and hospital, he was fine. You could not sleep that night nor many nights after. You kept seeing blood.



III. Skyworld.


Last week, I played it again on your machine, my inheritance. It is impossibly hard. I keep falling. The reaper looks decidedly smug in his purple vestments. I whine whenever I’m injured. The creatures I slaughter leave behind blood-red hearts.



I cheated to get to the last stage, final battle: with shield of mirrors, I keep firing beams of light into Medusa’s eye. She does not particularly seem to care.



IV. The Palace in the Sky.


I have two lasting visions of you. The first is a photograph of you and my brother. He is eight and has caught his first muskie. You are holding it for him: 43½ inches long. It is May, and not muskie season. He has to let it go.



The second is you standing in your living room, the shag carpet rusting beneath you. You have just said Icky Kid! and then laugh a great Polish laugh.



V. Underworld.


I do not sleep well at night. I have learned. What am I faking with these hands?



Grace. Whatever might approach artistry. Blood.







B.J. Best is the author of State Sonnets (sunnyoutside), Birds of Wisconsin (New Rivers Press, forthcoming), and two chapbooks by Centennial Press. “Kid Icarus” is from But Our Princess Is in Another Castle, a manuscript of prose poetry about videogames. B.J. lives in rural Wisconsin with his wife, their three cats, and 172 Nintendo cartridges. Visit him online at


A perfectly healthy sentence, it is true, is extremely rare. For the most part we miss the hue and fragrance of the thought; as if we could be satisfied with the dews of the morning or evening without their colors, or the heavens without their azure. - Henry David Thoreau


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