at the state fair

The horses on the carousel
shimmy up the silver poles
with front legs raised
and nostrils flaring
as if they have been frightened
by something in their path.
My face reflected
in the gold-framed mirrors,
I hold on for dear life,
searching for my mother’s smile
in the milling crowd.

When I grow tall enough
to ride the Whirlybird,
I refuse to let her kiss me,
pulling away
as a carny in a derby hat
buckles me in my seat.
I rise and fall like a wave,
spinning giddily in mid-air,
the metal legs unfolding
beneath me
like a giant bug stalking its prey.

Many revolutions later,
on the death-defying Cyclone,
my red-haired girlfriend and I
race towards oblivion,
our heads thrown back,
our voices drowned out by
the shrieks of the riders,
the roar of the wind,
the rumbling of the rails.

Now I move stiffly
like a clockwork figure
no longer able to raise his staff
and strike the hour.
Holding my exotic Luna’s little hand,
I place her on the painted pony
and wait for the hurdy-gurdy music
to start up once again.


(originally published in Poetry Quarterly)

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