Today was a beautiful Spring Sunday. I spent it mostly with people I love and cherish, my dearest sisters and friends. Prior to ending the night after dinner with a close friend from high school, we visited the carnival I had been meaning to go to for years now. I was afraid that another year would go by without me having the chance to visit, but I was determined. So, we walked on over to the carnival, and I was overwhelmed with an empty and unattainable memory… I don’t know if the carnival changed or if I did, but I couldn’t remember much of the times with my family there. My childhood was rooted there, in the backyard of the public library at the onset of summer, always an exciting time. Here’s a poem I wrote, maybe as closure, for a time I definitely miss but want to no longer seek because I want to move on and enjoy my life now at twenty two.
I won a Gold Fish
I returned to the grass behind the public library
to find a hot pink ferris wheel circling the night sky.
It’s been years since I’d last visited May’s annual welcoming
of summer flings and powdered zeppoli jumping around
in their white paper bags, thin and greased with oils.
Either they’ve cut down funds and this carnival has become smaller
or the few rides and games riddling the field
were warped into massive structures of adrenaline by the little brain of my past.
The memory that juggles the tiny ticket stand and fun slide,
its height once incomprehensible, becomes disoriented as we walk.
We walk and I search for the one game I remember,
the one where you win a gold fish, one that expires within the week.
The toss of a ping pong ball into floating bowls
could win you the life of a naive creature,
that knows nothing but the world inside the plastic bag
that hangs from the sweaty clench of a little girl.
She stands there by the fence, then sits carelessly on a rock,
only to jump from the surprise of a spilled blue slushy
that stains her new white pants, not unlike mistakes she’ll make at 22.
She stands with her sister, gripping onto that plastic bag,
in which swims her orange reward, and she and the braid in her hair
look frazzled upon the click of a camera button by their dad,
just in the dawn of the age of the digital.
Two sisters, caught like deer in headlights, are soon never to return
to this field behind the library until too long after their youth has fled.
Upon arriving at a kiddie pool, resembling the game of my past,
I stand with a zeppole in hand.
“Would you like to play?” asks a young blonde worker
as I sadly look at the blue fish, large and stuffed dolls, hanging in the tent,
“Well, do we win a real fish?” knowing the answer would be no.
The worker laughs, as does a passerby, a father holding his daughter’s hands
tightly as they consider playing the game,
and I feel defensive of my memories and claim,
“When I was younger, I’d win a gold fish for this.”