GUN SHOW AT THE COUNTRY FAIRGROUNDS
I said I wasn’t going to do this anymore. This isn’t a plea deal I’m offering you, an absolution of your sins as a bedside Negress nurse. If i don’t keep on I will die of stress as this riot of pain grows within my throat & starves what I’ve saved over the years in the root cellar of my body. It’s now the size of an amusement park ride with individual cars, a spun out tilt-a-whirl typhoon going in circles. In order to play you gotta buy tickets and with a family it’s easy to blow a whole paycheck, your children inhaling this shit you’d made agreeable because it feels like home.
So you squirrel some money away in savings & scream with glee. I’m put to work. I’m a seasonal employee next to a concession stand selling Confederate flags, i’m pouring drinks in the beer tent watching you strut around with American flag patches on your biker vests. We are woven into that leather as you take our skin and film blackface videos you will share with your international web of friends. If we have to be tightrope walkers to keep from getting shot we will do it, and that’s the part where I choke on my self-respect.
My prose poems are turning into essays, my letters are turning into poems. They were stolen on my break & swelter in monster trucks that I don’t know how to drive. All I have to get away from you are my legs & something tells me these calves are running through midways in my sleep because I wake up with hamstrings warm to the touch, hitchhiking burrs sneaking refuge in my refugee hair. The text on yard signs, marquees, menus, & billboards swirls grunts sweats sweeps into thoroughfares across the nation, a calculated deluge promoting what is becoming harder & harder to handle.
It’s the consuming indifference that is driving me mad on this late September night. You are deep into your assorted amusements with the lights off, the television shrieking filaments of abused neon light. I hear the click of the Kalashnikov remote pointed from across the room, your cowboy sights watching me try to successfully eviscerate a news show guest in a way that will make you put your gun down willingly. But judging by the faint but deepening ocean beds of fatigue on the Black activist’s face, composure in the face of the irredeemable has nothing to do with grace.
NIKKI WALLSCHAEGER has published work in The Brooklyn Rail, LIT, jubilat, Apogee, Georgia Review, Witness, Denver Quarterly, and Spoon River Review. She is the author of the full-length collection Houses (Horseless Press) and the graphic chapbook I Hate Telling You How I Really Feel (Bloof). Her second full-length book of poetry, Crawlspace, has recently been published by Bloof Books. She was also an editor for Bettering American Poetry Anthology 2015, a project promoting the work of marginalized writers. She lives in Wisconsin.