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Yale Daily News Magazine · County Fair

A teenage boy is waiting
in line for the ferris wheel and focusing
hard on how shit the town is,
and the dust, and the sweat,
and the earth’s climate
always aligning in August to be a metaphor
for dead-end, and how he will leave soon,
for good, and looking up, for a moment,
he locks eyes with a woman
as her ferris wheel cart passes directly
in front of him and whooshes back up,
and she looked like she was sitting alone,
no one to her left, and he wonders
why she would do that, ride alone,
something so stupid and honestly
quite embarrassing,
and his eyes follow her cart, losing
her figure in clunky movement and color,
and the cart slows to a stop way above his head
until he sees clearly
two tiny blue shoes
dangling from little ankles and knees,
to the left of the mother’s
large, sensible sneakers.

A young girl is plastered against
the walls of the Starship 3000
as it spins the kids like a petri dish,
gravity forcing back small lungs against
garish red mats. When the spinning began,
she had been looking intently at a boy
three mats over to the right,
and did not look away in time,
so that now her right cheek
is glued to the wall, smothered by
gravity, eyes staring in his direction.
At the ride’s end, she is so embarrassed, so
sure that he has noticed, and she will
think about it all day,
that he noticed her stare and
her pale spindly arms and legs
covered in freckles like a disease,
her face a burning moon
hiding nothing.

A man walks stiffly through dust,
heat hanging off his back, his left
heel aching with every other step,
machines from decades ago still
clanging in his ears. Everything is loud:
the screams of laughter
and the carnival music,
the old ones yelling at young ones,
and he woke so early today, as always,
his heart a clock chiming at 4am,
and he got up and sat
on the right side of the loveseat,
alone, for several hours, rising once
to make buttered cinnamon raisin toast,
and he went to work at eight, hauling heavy things
and walking long distances and yelling over
loud machines and urging large animals forward
and bending over in dirt and manure,
rolling in it, you’d think,
from his appearance at the end of the day,
and what a long day, but he showered,
cast off his work, and came to the county fair,
and he is smiling frequently;
his youngest daughter has the brightest flare
of red hair that he can spot on every ride,
and he is proud of how red that hair is,
imagines clearly her far-away laughter
in place of the ceaseless ringing in his ears.

Tori Lu