CARNEY BARKER

You there, walking along the midway

come into my tent, for only a dollar

I will show you wonders

beyond your meager comprehension

but this offer is only good

for the next fifteen minutes

for that is when I start my show,

It’s not something you want to miss.

I know you’ve seen quarters pulled

from ears, doves fly off

from and oversized top hat

that moments before was empty

but you have never seen

the likes of what I will show you.

Here is my father, watch him

closely cast his seed, closely

and like that he is gone.

Not good enough you say

then watch again, even

more closely this time, see her

lie on my table, her gown

draped over her, see me reach

and pluck a small baby

better than a pigeon isn’t it,

but you blinked, where has she gone.

Only tepid applause, so I guess

you want one more, and I

am never one to disappoint.

See him standing there

it almost looked like

he is standing before a mirror shaving

and now he, too, is gone

before your very eyes.

If you still aren’t satisfied

if you haven’t gotten

your monies worth then please,

please step forward, for I can work

with others than my parents,

truly I can, so where are you going.

Step into my tent ladies and gentlemen

the next show starts

in only fifteen minutes,

all for a single dollar.

First published in The Parliament Literary Magazine – Issue 5- Masks and Manes 

OF DREAMS

Last night in my sleep
I though I heard an angel
althougn I could not, for trying,
understand what it was saying,
and it is odd since I
do not believe in angels.

Perhaps it was the cat,
but if so she has come up
with a new voice, using words
not formerly in her vocabulary,
but you put nothing
past a cat, ever.

I did ask the cat if she
had called out during the night
but she said it was not her,
and she wondered who
was in my room singing
in voice far sweeter than mine.

LADDER

You have to stop and wonder,
the child said, why people
can take joy in killing, why
people can scheme each other,
why people can cheat if they can.

Birds, the child added, only
try and scheme people for food,
why they cheat for the sake
of cheating, kill for pleasure,
yet we say we are the higher species.

Perhaps, the child concludes,
it is we who are standing
on our heads, looking up
the species ladder, and we
are actually on the bottom.

ARMAGEDDON

There are a group of them
who stare at the sky
knowing it is coming
launched on its course
at the beginning of time
which has no beginning.
Some say it will be soon
others are less certain when
but all accept without question
its inevitability, and wonder
what will remain in its
aftermath, seas evaporated,
continents blotted, it is easy
I tell them, there will be
a freaking big mess
for the roaches to clean up.


First Appeared in Pandaloon, 1996.

WITH THE GREATEST CARE

She looks carefully, not
wanting the others to know what
she sees, for she needs her secrets.
She wanders over, the others follow
totally unaware she has a goal,
that she will not be satisfied
until she attains it, and that she has
a determination that would give them pause
and no small measure of wonder.
As they stop to talk, she
slides away, still in sight, and they
ignore her, as she assumed they would.
They are predictable, and she uses this
to her advantage, day in and out.
She laughs loudly, insuring their attention
as she plops down in a large puddle
on the driveway, her onesie and diaper
soaking up water, as they feign horror
and then, laughing themselves, concede
she has, as two-year-olds
always will, bested them all yet again.

OH, REALLY?

The box said all natural.
That alone was nothing unusual,
but it was on tomatoes.
How, he wondered, could tomatoes
but unnatural, or worse still
partially natural, partially not.
Had they cloned the tomato?
Would cloning make it unnatural,
and if so, how could you tell it
from the original which was natural?
And these weren’t organic.
He began to wonder how tomatoes
could be inorganic.
Wouldn’t they cease to be tomatoes?
It was all too confusing
and he was hungry
but all he had was tomatoes
and those he could no longer trust.

CHECKOUT LINE

Time seems frozen in the checkout line
stuck between the Mars bars
and the tabloids, you wonder
how Liz could survive a total body
liposuction, and further details of how
OJ killed in a moment of lust.
The old woman in front rummages
in her change purse certain she has
the eighty-seven cents, the coins
lost in a blue haze reflected off her hair.
Two aisles over the young mother
her jaw clenched in frustration
keeps putting the life savers back
on the shelf as her child, fidgeting
in the cart grabs another roll, until
she shouts and slaps his hand.
His cry draws stares from all and she
stares at the floor as he grabs
a Three Musketeers and Certs.
A man in the express line swears
that the apples were marked 89 cents
and wants to see the manager
who calmly explains that Granny Smiths
are a dollar twenty-nine and only small
Macintoshes are on sale this week.
He puts the bag on the scale
and stalks out of the store.
I would shift to the express lane
but I have 16 items and must
continue to wait and wonder
how many incisions it would take
for a full body liposuction.


First Appeared in Kimera, Vol. 3, No.2, Winter 1998.

DARLING’S MANTRAS

You are two
and you laugh
for everything is funny
or can be, if you just tilt
your head a certain way
or wag a finger at it.
The cat watches
from behind the sofa
with a knowing gaze.
For you food is
as much a toy
as words are food
and you cannot imagine
why we old ones
are so blind to the obvious.
There are an infinite number
of sides to a ball
and you want to see all of them
or some, until they roll off
and you want to cry
at their loss, until
a leaf lands at  your feet
and you giggle at the tree
for being so clumsy,
it is a mommy like yours
with one sock falling
from her laundry basket
as she carries it downstairs.
You hand me a block
and expect me
to construct a dream.