Colosseum

When I was little,
In the latter part of summer,
My dad’s best friend
And his wife
Would bring me to the fair.
All the way to Syracuse –
More than an hour’s drive west –
And we’d stop for breakfast at IHOP on the way.

We’d see the pigs
And the fish
And the colorful chickens.
We’d check out the vendors,
And I’d go home with a balsa wood airplane,
After a day of chicken wings
And butter sculptures,
The ring toss and the Tilt-a-Whirl.

But the very best part –
The hub of that glittering Ferris wheel –
Was the Colosseum.
On the way in,
We’d pass through the barns
And see the teenagers lounging,
Or grooming their beautiful beasts:
Preparing them for battle.
We’d get some popcorn
And find our seats high up in the stands
And we’d watch the horses and riders compete.
And I have to tell you, brother…
I hope you’ll hear me, sister…
It was glorious.

And also?

I had no clue what on God’s tramped-dirt earth I was watching.

Still don’t.
I don’t know from horses,
Even though I went and married a horse girl.
I know they were gorgeous.
And I know that rider and mount were both
So, so good.
And I know that year after year in my childhood,
Ron and Deb and I entered into that vast, echoing space,
And we watched them run,
And jump over stuff,
And step precisely
Where
They
Were
Meant
To.

And it was the best part of the best days of those superlative years.
But I had no idea what I was watching.
Still don’t.

Today I was thinking:
Even the people I love,
And know most deeply,
Have a Colosseum inside them –
A cavernous space
Erected around
A lovely, complicated dance
Which I will never understand.

Sometimes I feel an urge
To bring to these spaces
My small and alien ideas
Of order
And right
And sense…

And what the hell is my problem?

I need to sit down in the high-up stands,
Munch some popcorn,
Take in (if i can) the heart-piercing beauty in front of me,
And shut up.

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