Poetry Sunday: Sonnet for the State Fair

Happy Sunday, everyone! Today I have a poem for you that had its genesis way back in 2007.


We are at a crossroads in Augusta
when the dark grasses start shooting up.
Blooming wild roses crack gray asphalt,
curling over the humming curves of neon lights.
The Ferris wheel groans as the kudzu jams
its girders, smothering the sun-burnt lovers
who read each other’s bubbled flesh
like Braille in the steel baskets. Moon-eyed,
the Jersey heifers bellow in the barn.
Prize roosters rise up on frantic feathers
to greet their Bantam prophet, while
on the shuddering park bench, I turn to kiss you,
my breath boiling from the guzzled Corona,
before you, too, are swallowed whole.


From tenth grade through the end of college, I was strictly a realist writer, drawing primarily from my suburban childhood and the world around me. I rediscovered my love of speculative fiction in 2006, and soon, it began to drift into my work. This is one of my first pieces to include a speculative element. I wrote it in the year after college, when I worked in a library and lived at home and consumed entirely too many works of post-apocalyptic fiction (Riddley Walker what what).

It was published in Umbrella in 2008 in a substantially different form, then later found its way into Squall Lines, my graduate thesis. There are elements in either version that I enjoy. I think I should have kept those heifers lowing, but there sure is something compelling about a Bantam prophet. One of the things I learned to do better in graduate school was line breaks, evident here. I would never end a line on “I” now.

The final image is very different, isn’t it? There’s a world of difference between a poem where the narrator’s boyfriend is swallowed up by kudzu and one where she is, too.

The fair in question is the Sussex County Fair, which will always be the Ur-fair of state fairs to me.