The Midway

The circus trucks stretched out along the highway
like a crystal rosary of headlights
Animals in the rain
bearing on their backs
the dark prayers
of side-show freaks, mechanical rides, and bingo tables
Nameless animals
creeping into the city
to unpack their trained faces in a grove
displaying their elixirs for the eye and nose,
bleeding fingers and tongues,
selling tickets to cotton-candy pardons

In a breath of neon
all the tales of clowns and lions
scrawled on the walls of backstreet houses
weren't marked like the tattooed woman
Rose-titted, battle-butted woman
cuddling her snakes
    (Once I saw the boa
    that lives in the large pocket
    of her pink satin dressing gown
    He eats the unraveling deer
    from the tie-belt end
    and pins back the stars
    of the frayed pocket lining
    to see out)

At Chez de la Femme
    (like so many others
    we are all working together)
my eyes tear at a stripper's diaphanous red silk
Her jeweled g-string gleams
making me squint
I am fascinated by the art of exercised hips
bumped and ground into shape
worn smooth and shining as tumbled rocks

I see your thoughts
a barker's call
    "Step right up
    See the fantastic two-backed animal
    that dances all through life!"
Sweat fingers my skin
telling of other wet moments
in your arena
I am a jumping lion
clawing at the firehoop
you raise so well
burning burning burning
taunting me to growl and lunge through
    (What an act!)
None of my words could match your finale
your naked raw expression
Not knowing anyone could sleep so still
that night I dreamed of fakirs
loving salt in the gash of memory

David Swoyer
Contents | Mudlark No. 1
A Portrait of Marriot Bradden