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I’ll sell you
mud & straw & the smell
of exotic and sick animals,
a stranger’s frank stare,
a fetus in a bottle,
a naked girl in a box
of knives,
My Live Quarrel with a
Woman Behind a Curtain!

My first carnival was at Boys Town,
in a benefit for Boys Town.
My father took me,
and I can still see him
young on that day.
We paid to step into a truck
to see a cynic’s “rhinoceros,”
that looked like a scrap of hide
in murky water.

My first time in New York,
at Coney Island,
a sideshow barker in a red coat
argued onstage
with a purple-veiled showgirl
and a lean sailor in the crowd.
I wouldn’t leave.
My Aunt Peg still tells the story.

“Through onion fields
and hilly woods,
I walked with my love,”
sang the soon-to-be-married,
“to the traveling carnival.”