At Nine I Drew a Carnival I Called Ghost Mushrooms

When I tired of paper dolls I wore floppy tennis shoes
excavated from the can house and waded the sharp
creek bed. In pasture reeds I sallied with a neighbor
girl into a hidden mud pit. We sank chest-deep
and cribbed from board-game characters of the 50s,
Rock Lamond, Vicky Chatter, Hoppy Brightlace,
Bobby Newbold, scratching hide and seek maps
in mud with vectors to dissuade wharf rats. Our lips
met, threading a murmur in the bamboo thatch.
It was The Time of the Go Do Gauges, we said.
We bent simple flags in tree cages, branches

to worry away evildoers, or set rocks in piles
around our black mud bath. We were fickle
and ate wild cherries when nervous.
To get back clean we splashed the creek,
swore in whispers, skipped flatheads and bottle shards.
Her backside sported a glaze of graying mud;
we touched beside the water spiders.
That night a carnival began at the brick school
and I passed by with Ma on our daily amble,
attracting the chopped gaze of puzzled miscreants.
Greasy tickets were clutched to buy a wildness

mutants sold. Sitting in the kitchen that night
I drew veils on letters, what I called Fascinta,
words of chain mail, coarsely voiced birds.
I could trick lines into spirit and cleft tongues
into fake diamonds. O I drew the moon yellow
with a marker, brown Ferris wheels on their sides
like mushrooms, a roller coaster that floated
framed in black with tall grass, specters in a carnival
mud lot in Hazelwood. I labeled it Ghost Mushrooms.
Elegizing rickety rides I walked in rhythmic time
in a canny palace inside a carnival town.
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