Hammered Dulcimer

Brad Baumgartner


There was a man who usually sat on the steps of a nearby mosque. Each day at noon the neighborhood children would hurry over to watch him, for it was said that he entered into ecstatic trances, pithily tapping his feet against the ground in tsunamis of sonic finesse. “He’s the reincarnation of Fred Astaire!” said one child. “It’s pure magic,” said a mother as her daughter eagerly tugged her down the street.

There was a whimsical nature to the man’s so-called tap dances, a spontaneity of love and light. And yet there was also a harsh decanted pitch, a self-knowingly grave redundancy—the recurring diurnal racket of thin steel trouncing concrete. This second racket mutely hammered its way into the onlookers’ third eyes like an immense invisible hummingbird bustling about a thousand microphones. For, underneath the ground upon which the sage dazzled the crowd, and of which they could not see, was the crypt of his former life—a dark den of misguided logic, the unkempt bed of a clown whose pierced neck tells the stories of an unmitigated circus of social vampirism.

He hammered the ground, sweating, tap, tap, tapping away in delirious fits of preternatural ecstasy. In and out and out and in…. oh, the circular vortexes, figure eights of abyssal lucidity. He had to wake himself up. One day, which is to say, right Now, he would unhinge that old heirloom chandelier upon his unaware self’s inter-dimensional head.



Brad Baumgartner is a writer and Assistant Teaching Professor of English at Penn State University. His digital chapbook, Quantum Mechantics: Memoirs of a Quark, is forthcoming from The Operating System (2019).