Suzie

“She’s kept me off drugs,” her handler
says, standing beside Suzie waiting
to lead her under the half-risen big top.
She will pull the center pole into place,
lifting the patched and re-stitched
stretch of sky-blue canvas streaked
with stars toward the clouds hanging
over the lot. Every morning
after the roustabouts, staggering
from bad wine, heat, and three hours’
sleep in the sweat-drenched bunks
stacked five high in the semi
that hauls them from job to job,
have driven the stakes, looped
the guy ropes over the side poles,
and unfolded the unrolled midway
and main tent, after the great hum
of the power generator has been
hooked into the lights that tonight
will glow across the cornfields, Suzie
hears the elephant boy holler, “Hunh,
Suzie, hunh,” and feels the quick, dull
thwack of his hook against her side.
She, swaying like a great gray ship
docked in the daylight, lifts
her accustomed trunk and, dust
flying off her back, trots as she has
every workday for forty years
in through the main entrance
and stands where the roustabouts
will later piece together each fading
arc of the red center ring. The handler
hooks the enormous clank of chain
to her leathered harness, again
shouts, “Hunh, Suzie, hunh,” and
she, with a slow wave of her crusty
ears, caked and sore from a thousand
bites, walks with the indifference
of sovereignty to the far end
of the tent, pulling the great pole up
and into place, the pole itself carrying
the sky and all its stars from the dust.

© Jack R. Ridl 2003

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3 thoughts on “Suzie

  1. oh, i hadn’t read this one yet. oh, i like it so. poetspeak time? i don’t know how you combine such weight and sadness with such grace and magic. but i’m glad i get to read it, soak in it. 🙂

  2. “…she, with a slow wave of her crusty
    ears, caked and sore from a thousand
    bites, walks with the indifference
    of sovereignty…”

    nice.

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