Hart L’Ecuyer has poems published or forthcoming in PARAGRAGHITI, Futures Trading, Z-composition, and others. He has taken workshops at New York University and Webster University and has done readings for the Ethical Society of St. Louis, the River Styx Hungry Young Poets series, and the Webster Groves Art on the Town festival. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of the Phizzog Review and a guest editor for Red Dashboard LLC’s print anthologies. He lives in St. Louis.
Carnival in Neosho, Missouri
We rode golden-oldie carnival car-halves
That spun smaller-than-life in hard colors
On a fast October’s Missouri night
That dealt thrills like a highway’s turn
Straightening out. On that ride’s axel
We whipped our stomachs to the point
Of regurgitating roadside convenience chips,
Give or take a mouthful of salt.
It dug its steel claws in motel grounds,
Too small to grind a Ferris wheel.
“Motel” is all the low-down building said,
In decades of neon red.
We passed up the popcorn trucks, all had a dollar
For rides, and passed a slouching woman
Waking in the corner by the bounce house.
She looked up from shadows of gold and shook
Her head, mumbling, turned us away
With a twitching dialect of the body I knew
Only in passing. Those rides,
Were they trucked in from the parking lot
My grade school shared with church?
Tangled extension cords, yellow fluorescents.
I’ve seen these stuffed animals before.
We’d seen it glittering beyond waiting
And listening fields. They were cut
Now and then and this was then,
This was when ditches and burrows were like dads
With scratchy beards that carried by default
Skinny insects climbing lazy blades.
We were unpacked strangers sizing up
Neosho from our chain hotel’s parking lot, and
Thought police when we saw flashing lights,
A speeder, a drunk— but we kept walking, knowing
There was something good out there.
The guy with a cigar got it into his head
They were carnival lights, not the law,
But it was a small town—even if it was
A carnival surely they’d closed it down by now.
Another said, “Hey, well the lights are still on.”
We walked, and after ankle sprains and crossing
A ditch-lined road, we had a blurred hour
For the carnival. No one was there to stay.
A Subway in New York with Hart Crane
I ran down the avenues under hardworking streetlights
with an angry foot, browsing the windows and puddles
for wide-awake moons. In my starved insomnia, and looking
for a view, I went down the steps to the subway, reciting
your dreams. What destinations and what rats.
Whole families of rats having midnight picnics,
Trains full of ghosts, homeless men between the cars,
Businessmen under the seats—and you, Hart Crane,
I know what you were doing down by the subway map.
I saw you, frantic, unwelcome young guzzler,
Shoving through the corps of shadows
And checking out the midnight boys.
I heard you asking rhetorical questions
to the few of us listening: What stop’s next?
Are there not refunds at the ticket machines?
Are you coming to the Brooklyn Bridge?
We danced around the thundering subway car,
consuming advertisements, waving at every platform,
catching each other staring at the tunneling darkness.
I know where we are going, Hart Crane.
These doors always open again. I know which way
the wind is blowing, even down here.
Shall we get off and walk the bridge to sunrise?
With the street lights mimicking the moon,
the buildings’ fiery parcels,
we can both pretend it was some other time.
Will we strut speculating about the loud mechanical future
of America, after stopping in the middle of the bridge
to keep watch over the cityscape, back
to your old apartment in Brooklyn?
O ageless, lonely young prophet of torment,
what America did you have
when Whitman quit driving his ferry
and you got out on a dirty bank and stood watching
the boat disappear on the gray waters of the East River?