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Promised Town


You hoped your string of tickets
would last all day, or some one's parent,
protectively wandering the Fund Fair,
would buy you more because
as it worked out, they cared for you.
Those were the two hopes.
The land behind high school had never
been bigger, or more friendly.
Your older brother's friend,
working the Treasure Chest booth,
set you up behind the mound
of keys and schooled you
in how to fish for luck. But
the main attraction was the fair
itself, that it fit, nearly uniquely,
the illustrations set before us
in books and movies, of our lives,
and now, on one blessed
let-it-last Saturday afternoon
we could try winning, wandering
to a score of circus music
as real kids. Who can explain
why our good fortune—
handmade by our parents
and carted piece by piece into
our days—why it retained
a fated weightlessness, and why
our childhoods maintained
a haunted feeling of the inauthentic,
as if we orbited outside
the promised town, outside
its Main Street, and with no relation
to the promised girl skating
on the Town Grove's frozen pond,
her magenta scarf a gift ribbon
below her very yellow blonde flip,
which was why the teacher
titled the mural "Our Winter"—
so we might be her, although
we had never seen her. But the seasons
had moved on. We were very
warm at the fair, and our favorite
booth, the one that always settled
the question once and for all,
was where we now stood.
Its metal tub looked like a tire
cut in half, and hummed with power.
We watched an upperclassman
move a paper cone around the entire
hollow, twirling it as he went,
again and again like the earth
twirling in rotation while it circled
the sun in massively speeded-
up years, and the invisible wisps
became, during some moment
we could never quite pinpoint,
pink and real cotton candy
which disappeared inside the little
cosmos of our selves within
a blink, as it had spun to life,
as time would spin and sink,
and luck appear, and disappear.


Jessica Greenbaum

Michigan Quarterly Review

Summer 2012


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