By Atsuro Riley Atsuro Riley

    The Blue Hole Summer Fair, set up and spread out like a butterfly pinned down on paper. Twin bright-lit wings, identically shaped (and fenced) and sized.

    This side holds the waffled-tin (and oven-hot) huts of the Home Arts Booths and Contests, the hay-sweet display-cages for the 4-H livestock, the streamer-hung display-stages where girl-beauties twirl and try for queen. There's rosette-luster (and -lusting), and the marching band wearing a hole in Sousa. And (pursed) gaggles and clutches of feather-white neighbor-women, eyeballing us like we're pig's feet in a jar.
                         I wonder does her boy talk Chinese?
                                           You ever seen that kind of black-headed?
                                                             Blue shine all in it like a crow.

    This other wing (the one I'm back-sneaking, side-slipping, turnstiling into) dips and slopes down to low-lying marsh-mire: whiffs of pluff-mud stink and live gnat-pack poison, carnie-cots and -trailers camped on ooze. They've got (rickety) rides, and tent-shows with stains, and rackety bare-bulbed stalls of Hoop-La Game (RING-A-COKE!) and Rebel Yell and Shoot the Gook Down. Stand here, on this smutch-spot: don't these mirrors show you strange?

    Crowds are gathering. Yonder there and down, the yolk-glow of a tent is drawing men on (and in) the way a car-crash does, or a cockfight sure enough, or neon. The ticket-boy's getting mobbed at the fly of the door.
         No sign in sight, except for the X of the Dixie-flag ironed across his t-shirt.
         I am bone-broke but falling into line.
         The men upwind of me are leaking chaw-spit and pennies.
         That, plus the eye-hunger spreading like a rumor through the swarm.
         The rib-skinny doorkeeper's hollering: bet now, bout's bout startin!
         Over his shoulder, a ropy yellow light.
         Also: circles of white tobacco-smoke, and bleacher-rows of (cooncalling) men who know my daddy.
         —And there he is, up in front with some tall man, iron-arming two black-chested boys toward the ring.

Source: Poetry (September 2004).


This poem originally appeared in the September 2004 issue of Poetry magazine

September 2004
 Atsuro  Riley


Atsuro Riley grew up in South Carolina lowcountry and lives in San Francisco. His heavily stressed, percussive, consonant-rich, free-verse poems conjure up the elemental images of the lives of people inhabiting a specific, acutely portrayed landscape. His poems are dense with impressions, voices, and glimpses of people who have experienced the Vietnam War, rural life, and the South. Though grounded in a world that seems . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT School & Learning, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity, Activities


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