County Fair

I had gone the wrong direction on the highway.
We stop at a tiny white shack, the sign reading
Eat here, get gas! I smell the wet pavement,
the warm heat mixed with refreshing rainfall imbedded
into cement, we don’t eat. Or get gas.
He hassles me the entire time until we get there,
but I didn’t take the joke. He didn’t apologize.

By the time we arrive at the fairgrounds, muted
fluorescent lights begin to mix with the glow of fireflies
sparkling around screaming black heads. We silently make
our way toward the screams, over dirt ground that used to sprout grass.
We circle yellow boxes full of greasy foods,
slink between foil roller coasters built over night.
He complains how clowns’ noses are always red,
that heads of stuffed prizes lop over. Heavy in the big plastic eyes.
Look dirty. He grips the metal guard rails instead of my hand.
Bells surrounding carnival games flash hot pink tings of alarm in his eyes.

I didn’t ask for an elephant ear that year, and walked away
with nothing but images of chipping faces on brush-stroked signs
and the presentiment that we would be poor spokes to hold up any ferris wheel.

 

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