I studied every ride on the midway—
watched them groan, twirling
light into blur, the Ferris wheel’s
last passengers pointing out
from their seats to town’s end.
These monuments that have risen
between the hills, to be forgotten
as the lights go out. Where was she
in this hazy night? Maybe half lit
in Red-Oak Bar leaning on a man,
wedged between his thighs. I wonder
what it is to dream of autumn,
balled up on a park bench,
the tilt-a-whirl in my gaze,
wanting a passing car to take me to her.
Among these monuments I am too
small to find my way to the sandbanks
where she sometimes takes a man,
where sometimes I wander
skipping stones while she earns
in the backseat of a car or under
a gun-rack. It is hours like these
you learn the path of a ditch—a quiet
only the huffers know. Day breaks:
the carnies have loaded up the rides,
heading out of town in a convoy
leaving nothing behind, not even the grass.
“The Carnival” appears in Dark Thirty (University of Arizona Press, 2009).