Here is your hollowed out ride, complete
with smooth, plastic seat-back. Come, climb in.
Let the water touch you with its cold
breath, but please don’t
trail your fingers, like the lover in a painting.
Behind the set, you catch glimpses
unmarked doors to storage closets,
yellow safety strips, the crew’s pathways.
Hiding from the riders,
they wipe dust from the eyes of
each friendly, woodland animatronic.
The half-hidden skunk, possum,
pileated woodpecker. One, a bobcat,
skull thrust back—its busted tape recorder
caterwauls in heat. Enter Melancholy
in a beam of light and nightgown
like a waterfall. It looks like a woman
chasing a man in a circle all day,
holding a rolling pin over her head.
Your parents never told you
about love. Your mother’s hands only gripped
the steering wheel on the way to school,
If a boy tries to get you to, she starts to breathe
but doesn’t, go to bed with him,
don’t. Around the corner,
a lumberjack’s face,
and the two boys with a camera phone
snickering in the
dark. Here is Tangletown.
No wonder these rides are so sad.
The wax axmen pivot to banjo songs,
plaid backs bent over forest stumps.
One sleeps on a pile of pine needles,
a felt hat pulled down over his eyes.
The trees talk as a way to tell you
that trees don’t talk.
Another turn and this is the quietest part of the ride,
as the boat drifts back to shore, cloud banks heap
into beds of violets. The cyclorama sky cradles a storm—
far off and flickering, like a body shivers
deeper than the skin, or a face that will flinch
before it’s punched.
You want to say you’re not scared anymore.
But you were. You still are, a little.
After all it could never touch you,
but here it is, touching you.
Sarah Jordan Stout has had poems in Connotation Press, Rust+Moth, Sleet, and others. She is an associate editor for Stirring: a Literary Collection, and Co-Coordinator for the online reading series Poets in Pajamas. She has a masters degree in literature from West Virginia University, and lives and writes in Houston where she works at an environmental nonprofit fighting pollution and fossil fuel buildout across the state of Texas.
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