FOUR POEMS FROM THE GRAVITY OF FLESH
PICK A PRIZE
August, hot with flies, wasps
fallen sluggish to the sugar.
The State Fair, everyone eating
something or looking to be fed:
Pronto pups, chili dogs, popcorn,
cold milk, all you can drink,
Central Lutheran's homemade pie.
The woman who guesses weight,
wearing money apron and brown oxfords,
stands beside scales taller
than the big man who steps forward.
For only one pa-per dollar!
she reads his body, poundwise,
says, Two-sixty! He steps on
her scales at two-eighty-five.
She pats his backside under his belt
which is under a generous roll
of fat, says, You musta' been hidin'
somethin' there on me, honey!
Pick a prize, any prize. He touches
his thinning hair, chooses
the battered red and white beer hat
from among her ashtrays and embarrassed
lavender snakes, then walks away,
through the dusty music of calliope,
taller, twenty-five pounds lighter.
This barn is stuffed with feathers
and hundreds of caged beaks, discordant
choir of thwarted intention.
Spreading his black tattered fan
of a tail, old King Turkey gobbles,
his limp comb flopping unroyally.
Two boys, holding white balloons, mimic
him, and when he answers back, laugh so hard
they must fall down, sitting red-faced
in the dirt aisle, then they must
roll around there, holding the white
balloons above them, the dangerous earth.
All fluffed up, a Chinese goose presses
his white chest against the bars
toward a female in the next cage.
He would force his swollen body
through the bars to her, but she
pecks her grain, seems not to notice.
On the other side of the cages, a man
catches my eye, smiles and winks, as I
turn, walk back through centuries,
each smell rousing more primitive memory,
walk back to the private room called
Women, where, alone, unobserved,
I color my lips red.
In the judging barn, 4-H finalists
kneel beside their rabbits,
pat them into soft black or tan
or white balls. Pulling up
the puffy tails, they watch the judge,
who pats and looks, then picks up
each rabbit by its ears, checking
something under there. When one
rabbit bolts, the teenage girl
covers its eyes with her hand,
and, in the dark, its rabbit brain
conjures a burrow's safety and relaxes.
The girl, overweight, her face splotched
purple and puffy, spends too much time
before her judge, the bathroom mirror.
Her thin hair will not stay out
of her eyes, her jeans will not
stay zipped. After months of hoarding
the best rabbit greens, scrubbing
the clinging ammonia smell from the cage,
ignoring algebra, the entire history
of Europe, to brush and train her pet
to as much perfection as a rabbit
will allow, a blue ribbon would help
explain such singular love.
Three Mexican women, dark stars
of the Aerial Thrill Circus, rise
high above the crowd. Lifted up
by their heads and La Cucaracha,
they take off their teal-blue dresses,
stripping down to silver sequins,
bare legs, bare shoulders and backs,
as the crowd cheers on this near
revelation. Three dresses fall
slowly, silken feathers from beyond
where we can run or jump,
as the silver women, alone in the sky,
submit again to the universal spin, faster
and faster, their bodies blur
into motion and light, then slow
and descend again, epistles written
within their shining bodies,
and delivered back to earth by these
devout children of the innocent air,
who will never tell us what
they have learned, except to say,
by example, that it can be done.
This new collection of poems, "The Gravity of Flesh," published by Nodin Press in May, 2009, is on Amazon.com where you can pre-order it now. It will be available in bookstores soon.