God at the State Fair
By: Pete Mackey
My God nuzzles the rifle into his shoulder,
braces one elbow on the shelf and aims
at ducks rising from the water before a growing
crowd that watches him win stuffed animals
for downing three in a row over and over.
My God is the shadowy figure taking cash
from behind a screened booth and making change
without customers who enter the midway past
him even realizing that they have paid The Man
the admission fee. He might as well be laughing.
My God is spinning pink and blue cotton
candy, passing out batons of spun sugar,
sweetness incarnate that is savored and gone
before we know it. Or instead: the wizened lifer
with tattoos who wheezes as she pulls a drag on
her cig and spits phlegm into the dust
between her boots as the riders she controls wail
in circles, until, finally, sniffing, she touches
the lever between her legs with bit-nail
fingers and the mouths blurring together cuss
to a quiet. Or also: absentmindedly scratching the scruff
of the gold-medal billy after the judges
have finished with what she raised from its first
stumbles into this creature she can’t help loving,
this champion, with its withers and horns, its perfect
goatness. God almighty of vengeance and grace,
of soft pretzels and redemption, ferris wheels
and fate, of agape, corn dogs and greased pig races,
of strobe lights, martyrs, darts and squeals
of fear—be well. The fair closes today.
Pete Mackey's poetry has been published in such outlets as Cumberland River Review, Connotation Press, Sweetlit, District Lit, Global Poemic, and others. Besides publishing numerous essays and articles, he is also the author of CHAOS THEORY AND JAMES JOYCE'S EVERYMAN (UP of Florida). He runs his own communications company serving colleges, universities, and other nonprofits across the U.S.
"I wrote this poem some time ago, and have tinkered with it many times since. It was inspired by a convergence of three thoughts--vivid memories of the sensory floods that come with state fairs, which I have attended everywhere from New Jersey to Texas, Ohio to South Carolina; the experience of being surrounded by the strangeness of it all, especially as a child, AND by all the strangers; and the notion that we never know where holiness resides, combined with a question whether we still believe in these moments of communion or, even, in a God behind them."