Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"Theme Park" by Laura Kasischke

I just finished reading Housekeeping in a Dream, Laura Kasischke's second collection of poems. It is one of her best, I think. Sadly, it is out of print. It was published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 1995. The following poem will likely resonate with anyone who has ever been to Cedar Pointe in Sandusky, Ohio, a prime after-prom excursion in these parts. Note that I've amended the third line to correct what I believe to be a typo in the printed text.
Theme Park

We drove all day in his father's
olive Ford to find it.
What else was there [to] do? We were
so bored of our bodies by then. Here

our bodies are
my boyfriend said and gestured
to a spray
of bullet-holes in paper, folded

map of inertia in which
Ohio was only the size
of an envelope
of scrub-brush, the highway choking down its long
motorcades the way

a snake swallows a model plane, the way
our mothers back in Michigan were shaking
pepper on our fathers' scrambled eggs. Drive

careful now
they'd cried
when we waved good-bye, and smiled, though

they'd never understand this need to drive
three hundred some-odd miles
for a roller-coaster ride. We

laughed when we finally saw the sign WELCOME

TO OHIO, and we pulled
over on the highway for a snapshot
of the rest-stop. I
circled my tongue for a moment
in my boyfriend's shellfish ear. It was

a husk, a pod, a catcher's mitt
and with it he could hear
our hometown rattle its teenage
padlocks like
the Great Houdini to get out. How long

until we get there?
I asked him, like a fool. My
boyfriend's lip was prickly
and stiff by afternoon. Oh

I knew he didn't want
to marry me, but would. He wanted
a huge contraption
to toss him into space, screaming

for his life, to hover over Ohio
for a while before he died -- to fly, fly, puke
in the sky. Instead

We never found that field
of sweet Milk-
duds and themes. We drove

straight through that day
in which all familiar landmarks
have been permanently shelved, mis-

placed or rearranged, until
the sun set oozing
on the warm brown fields, like

flapjacks on a platter

and we turned back.
The radio

played nothing
but an old man's coma-breath along the flatline of its dial. It
grew darker, and the rest-stop
appeared to be on fire. A wheel

of fortune in the sky. A small
dropped pamphlet
fluttered about god, and

my boyfriend agreed to marry me
whether I was pregnant or not. We
grew older

and more tired, and when we crossed the dotted line
to Michigan again the state-
trooper waved at us
and smiled. And now I know that failure

can also be amazing -- bright
whirligig of pulleys glint
and snap above our lives. Oh

small lost cars that trundle and careen
through the whole contrived sky
: I

knew he was only a boy.

(Laura Kasischke, from Housekeeping in a Dream, 1995 Carnegie Mellon University Press)

No comments: