The Bloomsburg Fair
by JoAnne Growney
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.
by the exhibits.
A giant pumpkin—
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).