Big Bridge #10

Export: Writing the Midwest


Cynthia Plum


Camouflage Carnivals

“chain of…”


My children endure my flashbacks
I drown the fires of Agent Orange
Into nothing but ash in the local bar
Into nothing but ash I drown

I collect body parts of brothers during Bugs Bunny
“I can’t find his head!”
My children can’t see
I can’t stop seeing

Searching for his head
“What’s up Doc?”

I need a drink
Though she needs the man I lost in the jungle
Small eyes question
And she asks smiling
“What’s up Doc?”
I reply with, “nothing”
Though that’s no explanation
My wife turned hippie while I was gone and doesn’t understand
I had to go
To prove to my father, I WAS A MAN
Though I’m empty today of the man I was when I left home
The whole boy is here
With a father who is not proud
A wife I can’t confide in
And children who will never meet the man
Left drenched in the jungle
Surrounding me now
None of them see the beauty
Or the flames
Consuming everything I was to pass on

Decades have passed since my little girl became afraid of an invisible man named Charlie
And I’ve come to see the jungle didn’t only trap me

I’m a harmless old hermit with cancer now
That’s what I told her, when she called back
I didn’t blame it on the war
But told her, about the psych hospitals
And how I’m done drinking
I know she understands
When I call drunk and have my rooster Jake leave messages on her machine
That everyday the bombs explode
And I’m still consuming everything in my path into my jungle of flames
Drowning the images
And still searching for his head
And in every child I see the babies
I took to save my ass?
They will never have to help their fathers search for missing heads…

I hope she was too young to remember
“What’s up Doc?”


She IS
cotton candy, flashing lights, and the pull of the Himalaya
She IS
a civilian genius, in military disguise
She agrees to ride with me to the bookstore
though she tells me,
“It’s a commercial hoax!”
“Everything I needed to know
I knew at birth.”
She sees the tents in the parking lot as we pull up
“Hold your hand on the Ferris wheel?”
She winks, “Anything can happen when the carnivals in town.”
She begs like the carnies running the games
“An elephant ear, cinnamon and sugar and spice and, I’m everything nice.”
She is saltwater taffy, popcorn explosion of an iced beverage
forming dew on my cup, she shakes as I follow her into the gate
I’ve just returned to the Arizona desert from the Storm
She came from basic training where…
they shaped her to fit in the palm of my
“What’s so damn interesting back there?”
“Are you coming?”
“I’m thinking about cinnamon and sugar.”
I catch up and she is no longer excited or ing and tells me,
“Something is strange. Do you feel it?”
She is a sideshow mystic. I have felt it
“I want to play this game, win YOU a prize, just play along with my feminist shit, and all will be fine.”
Game booth carnie interrupts, “You’ve seen war.
I can see it in your eyes.”
I’m a proud vet ready to tell you a tale
“Yes I have!”
“I was talking to the lady son.”
Her eyes turn, “You served.
My father wears the same patch on his greens
And the same look in his eyes.”
“I see it in yours too.”
“You didn’t tell me your father was in Nam!”
“That’s why my eyes are so green
The beret melted into his genes.”
“I didn’t mean to sadden you dear
three balls on the house.
You knock over the milk bottles
And any of my biggest prizes is yours.”
She is
master of games
“Which one you want handsome?
Every Storm vet needs a stuffed talisman to keep them safe
from scuds, right?”
“Shit! They didn’t see shit!”
She is defender of my pride
“I don’t know
You should see them reach for imaginary gas masks
And something’s got them all sick
Give him the dragon, and go have a flashback jackass.”
“You didn’t have to do that for me
I know it was worse for those guys.”
“I don’t have to do anything but die!”
She IS
as I have never seen her before
flies swarming,
bird shit splattered on the stone of her marble green face,

“events, chain of…”


Reputed Legitimate Toboggan

Anticipating my irrational wrath, perpetual doom
Hallucinate your expectations until the tempo bows
Plaster me with your artful overlay, preposterous children
Pregnant with thoughts of stagnate restlessness, relinquished articulation
Scheming, you give me too much credit, proscribed deceit
A moments final lapse, barren transformed glare rabid propane hate
Vaulting agitation from nonsensical curtain, bewildered in daunted forests
Innuendos I'm disclaiming for attention
Anyone dissatisfied with abstinence?
Demonize me if it helps you sleep
The jester undisturbed laughs, lavish retreat

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