At the carnival we watch Sasha standing in the gravitron,
getting ready for the force of the spin to pin her in place.
She rolls her shoulders back, breathes her chest out,
looks like she's opening herself for a spiritual experience Lee laughs,
he's in love with her, he's holding a ballooned plastic bag
in his big hand, a bright goldfish inside. A goldfish he won for her
tossing a ping pong ball into a crystal dish, a goldfish meant
exactly for this, who lived inside its plastic bag
inside a garbage can full of other plastic bags,
a universe of planets sloshing into each other,
a bright sun burning in each. It will sit with Sasha
as she drives back north, swimming upright
while the bag slouches and rolls on the passenger's seat.
The ride starts spinning, slow enough, at first, to see her calm face
at each rotation, wrists pointed toward us.
As a child I would see the carnival lights spill and roll
in the distance, teenaged girls in jean shorts
kissing their tall boyfriends, and my father would
carry me on his shoulders to the shooting game,
where he would try with an automatic BB gun
to destroy any trace of the small pink star from the white piece of paper.
The stuffed animals hung enormous, vivid
plush and tufts of gritty hair, looking down
to me with a desperation only I could see,
who prayed to leave with a child like me, an escape
I ached to give them. Lee stands, a tiny teddy bear
in his other hand, its plush printed with fifty dollar bills.
The gravitron spins faster, I can barely adjust my sight to catch
Sasha's open frame. I think I can still see her face.
I get dizzy, trying to see.
At the muckleshoot casino my girlfriend and I are playing bingo
at their half-price, Thursday evening session.
At the other end of our long table there is a woman in her forties,
sitting alone with a glass of white wine in front of her
on a square napkin, with her orange dauber held in her hand like a pencil.
She looks like she is writing something more important than I am now,
on a piece of paper with numbers on it, marking a code
that people smarter than me will arrange and understand, without brains
that stop suddenly and pointlessly, like squirrels in the middle
of a busy road. Women behind her smoke and loudly announce
that they are approaching bingo or that they have never played bingo before
or that they don't understand the new bingo shape. On the huge TVs
hanging around the room we see the hand of the caller, only a part of her hand,
so close that we can see the wrinkles of her knuckles like pebbles dropped
into water. Her nails are painted a reddish purple, and I imagine
that she has a manicure every week. She is a celebrity here,
turning the ball toward the camera gently, and then calling
the letter and number with a practiced and elegant lilt.
N thirty-five. Can you say that three hundred people wait
breathlessly, apprehensively, for your every single word? I can't. And though I dream
it once in awhile, three hundred people, three thousand people,
listening to me read some poem or sing, or talk like a manic priest
about how Jesus was just a man brave enough to
announce his own holiness, I'm not sure I've got what it takes
to get there, or if I even want to. But at the muckleshoot
those hands hang above us, gently move unknowns into view.
When someone yells Bingo! there is a collective groan first,
because we're in this damn cold world together
and then after the win is verified, sometimes a small applause.
Not drinking again, as if that matters,
as if one marble hitting another breaks
the whole bunch apart. As if my spine's
a stack of pogs and if I get hit just right
they will all turn right-side-up.
There is no need to impress, to be
impressed, no need to quantify any time
your teeth got licked or didn't.
You can read Carl Sagan and wear orthopedic shoes.
You can fill your mouth with Christ's bland body.
You can carry an arm of cactus in your backpack everywhere you go.
I sit cross-legged in the shower and bite the skin off my lower lip.
Frank O'Hara had the right idea and if you were here
we'd have a coke together but we'd put ice cream in it, in fact
it would be mainly ice cream with just a little coke. The world's a booby-trap!
We're caught in a prank of cartoon proportions,
hanging all mashed together above the jungle floor
and the hand of god is just a little too far up my thigh.
Oh god oh lord the stars are pills spilled across Your open palm.
Oh baby oh darling let’s make love in the afternoon
and stop our villainous thoughts so suddenly they skid on their heels.
The snake in the road had its guts spilled out
like a cereal box knocked over.
I was carrying a pumpkin on my head
like someone far away
would carry a jug of water.
It is halloween and everyone is
wearing death like it
shoots from a gag-flower.
What do you do?
Do you kill the snake?
I ran my finger along its body like
the jawbone of a lover.
I rested a rock on top of its
head and looked toward heaven:
I was an angel last night,
still wearing the wings
while we made love on the
hard stone steps.
I brought my foot down
on the rock three times until
its head looked like a lucky coin.
None of it touched my shoe.
I felt like arranging its body
into cursive letters to say something
but didn't. How could I?
I buried it in the dirt with its blue belly facing the sky.
Chelsey Weber-Smith also writes country music and rambles around the United States building campfires and hoping for the best. They are a graduate of the University of Virginia's MFA program in poetry and have written and self-published two chapbooks, a travel memoir, and recorded two full-length albums. They were recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Their work has been published in BOAAT, Transom, Matter, Wu-Wei Fashion Mag, James Franco Review, Miracle Monocle, and Ghost Town. They currently live and travel in their truck, Old Handsome.