The Bloomsburg Fair

                                 by JoAnne Growney              


  In September,

   the Bloomsburg Fair.

   I escape my scorn

   for dirt and crowds

   and hurry there

   to taste each scent—

   sausages, funnel cakes,

   Mongolian barbecue, candied popcorn.


   I'm fascinated

   by the exhibits.

   A giant pumpkin—

   three-hundred-forty-five pounds,

   not round, more like a bean-bag chair.

   How did Anna Stolfus

   make it grow so large?

   How did she lift it

   to bring it here?


   A team of guessers,

   Myrtle and John,

   take dollar after dollar

   from gamblers who suppose

   they look a different age.

   Myrtle peers deep

   into a bettor's eyes,

   then guesses on the nose.

   Mistaken once.  A midlife couple

   asked the number of their wedded years.

   Though Myrtle said "Eleven,"

   it was "One."  A missing digit.

   Two years back,

   when Mother was seventy-eight,

   John guessed, "Seventy-three."

   "Kind to old folks," Mother said.


   All night the Midway glows and roars.

   I pause beside the Scrambler.

   Now or later I'll give in and pay

   three dollars for three minutes of excited prayer

   to escape alive from spinning there.


   Whack-A-Mole's my favorite game.

   Quick, quick, beat the clock,

   beat the other players. 

   Pound the darting plastic varmint -

   win another candy dish.


   In front of side-show tents,

   a barker barks his come-on-ins. 

   Why don't my students receive theorems

   as willingly as passersby

   accept his lies?


   Once I paid to see "The Smallest Horse

   in the Universe,"  declared as "Under

   Twenty Inches High."  On a platform

   beside its flank, I stood with less

   than twenty inches of horse above my feet.

   I expected a more-clever fraud.


   Each year the Bloomsburg Fair

   celebrates the truth with lies.

   If parallels will never meet—

   then here's a man with snakes for hair,

   and there's a woman with three eyes.


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     This poem appears in the anthology, COMMON WEALTH:

        Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania, (2005, PSU Press).