Coming home: carnival

Love makes the wheels go round— as in, your heart is a vehicle

conveyed through small towns, worn-out suitcase you drag, only

stopping at the fair for pickled eggs, magenta jar of luck & hope.

Those tiny bobbing heads, kraken, sailors tell themselves at night.


Here, the Ferris wheel is broken down and all the lights look dim,

forsaken while you wander round the same dirt path. The clam

booth steams just like the sea— though you’re in Pennsylvania.

The pie ladies are smiling from their perch which smells like pine.


It’s been redone, still lemon, apple, rhubarb, they preach & hum.

Renounce, renounce & have a slice. Because the night, because

you’re home & you’re redeemed. Beside the swings, you halt.

See someone you used to know; he is old, does not see you.


That chartreuse light of August glowed just beyond the ballfield

when you first came. Now the hawkers at the candy apple stand

put on their lights & all the games draw in the younger crowd.

You pitch dimes in old thin jars, try to win back the family name.


Then the Ferris wheel begins to turn and soon the fireworks will

parachute chrysanthemums into the dark. One year when you

were young, you were stuck at the top with a boy you liked.

Kids waved thin sparklers on the hill like dots of fireflies.


Hello, hello, you want to shout. Remember me? But no one

yells.  And no one comes to sit near you. The carnival man

jerks his finger. You are next. He clamps you down in metal.

You ride in huge moist circles, your heart lurching at the top.


Ellen Stone

Ellen Stone advises a poetry club at Community High School and co-hosts a monthly poetry series, Skazat! in Ann Arbor, Michigan where she raised three daughters with her husband.  She is the author of What Is in the Blood (Mayapple Press, 2020) and The Solid Living World (Michigan Writers’ Cooperative Press, 2013).  Ellen’s poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.  Reach Ellen at

Reception Immediately Following

Come in come in I’m so glad

you could come how good

to see you I’m fine thanks just fine

lunch is laid out in the dining room


let’s open the wine


so we can enjoy ourselves

take your plate into the garden

the lilies she planted last fall

have just come into bloom


yes lovely


do take a second helping

I gave the caterers her special recipe

have another glass of wine

the music was beautiful


wasn’t it


she helped plan everything

that was our niece who sang

marvellous voice I’m fine


really fine everything

just like she’d wanted


to see you let’s have a hug


do stay a bit

we’ll all go out to dinner

there’s a great place

we used to


thanks so much

for coming, goodbye yes

it went well

so nice


you could come

get together soon

you’re the last


you could stay

I’ll walk you to your car



love you


give us a kiss


until                 fine

later of course

I’m fine


just fine


Ruth Bavetta

Ruth Bavetta’s poems have appeared in Rattle, Nimrod, North American Review, Tar River Poetry, Slant, American Journal of Poetry, and many other journals and anthologies. Her fifth book will be published in 2022. She has been an Associate Editor for Good Works Review and has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize.

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