American Portrait 1

by Ken Harnisch

He eschewed the fireworks display
On July the Fourth
To flirt with the young girl
At the knock-down-the bottle booth
Behind the Tilt-A-Whirl
She was only fifteen, she said
Tossing back her sable hair
And no, not a gypsy
But the carny had
Been in her family’s blood a long time before
She was ever born.
Her mother, all of thirty-one, in turn
Flirted with the stranger
Who spent seventeen dollars throwing
High school sliders at wooden bottles
That resisted all attempts on his part to knock them down
Later, he spent more dollars and time
In the company of a lonely duo
Woman and Girl
Who once were beautiful and young
But now were only jaded
Caricatures who had
Grown prematurely old
Not prematurely wise

And who was grifter
And who was victim,
No one knows for sure.
The young man was parted from his money
But it is a debate as to whom, through charm and guile,
Was more eagerly
Separated from their senses
And their clothes

In the following year, in Kansas City
Long after he forgot their names
And well out of his range of knowing
During an April downpour
A newspaper reported its Oddity of the Year
On the same day, under wet canvas
In a traveling carnival
A Mother gave birth to a daughter
While her daughter gave birth to a son.


Posted on 07/30/2002
Copyright © 2022 Ken Harnisch

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