“Tripping at the NC Agricultural State Fair” by Sarah Sweeney

Sarah Sweeney


Just as neon lights sputtered on,

shining pink and yellow mayhem
across Coliseum grounds,

the mushrooms kicked in.

I imagined this spectacle from space
like the spot of cherry slush vomit—

bright, on the sole
of my sandal.

October, summer’s lasting rim.

Short-sleeved, we sat on the curb
holding our noses, chasing
the taste with warm beer.

As we climbed the dinky Ferris wheel ramp,
I thought of Jesus descending—

with each revelation
we yelled, Hey Jesus!
lifting our arms over our heads,

waving to him above while
workers hurried to fix the switch
that halted us for an hour in the air.

From the top, our little city
seemed finally on the map—

I think, I am someone, somewhere,

and so strange to be alive, zigzagging
through mazes and mirrors,
the Gravitron and Ring of Fire.

              It’s like that

when you’re young or stoned,
and the world is ripe and yours,
like standing on a hundred-foot platform
to tandem bungee with the boy
who’s just a phase.

The sky opened and all we heard
was clown music hammering below.

Picture that exalted, scared look
on my face,

the one that said, Not yet, not yet,

and the hand pushing us
over the ledge,

the fall sweeter not knowing when
it would happen,
that I’d lose the urge to throw myself
into the night.

But it all seemed so clear:
ricocheting for minutes into the crowd,

jolting back towards the sky in a trail
of tobacco and spun sugar.

I could see over the clouds.

I could see children crying,
stumbling off the fast rides
into their mothers’ arms.

I saw the littlest boy
kissing a billy goat—

And could see this

was where I belonged

and just over that

where I would go.

from Rattle #39, Spring 2013
Tribute to Southern Poets

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