The carny pulls
moon-eyed gawkers into his weathered canvas tent,
his gravel voice scraped raw by a million cigarettes,
his lusty call the shepherd’s crook of a midway devil combing sawdust
for meandering curiosity that would lose
its soul for a nickel,
people looking for salvation in a bearded, fire-breathing fiend
or Siamese twins sitting in a double double-breasted suit,
hair slicked back with snake oil and
glossolalia born of hell.
The hawker’s skin is brown leather born of merciless summer sun,
camouflaged by calliope notes wheezing sharp and flat
and a smile poured from the pint of liquor
in his purple vest.
At night he sleeps on the raw mattress ticking in a bunk
sagging in a trailer park of muscle men and whores.
The tattoos on his arms and chest come
alive—“Marvels one and all!”
and slide across his body like slippery serpents with an eye on Eden,
freaks and geeks already rehearsing tomorrow’s deadly show.