“Geek” by Matthew Sorrento

The pit of fire in me was right there with death….

Carnival train
rolled to a stop
at our camp.

The big boss
came right out,
had me running
from the Model T wreck
over our fire.

After a few words
he returned
with an armful of bottles,
one for all.

We’ll be here, just this way,
he pointed down the tracks.
Two weeks!
holding a bottle high.
Plenty more!
he winked and rolled off.

I arrived to the circus,
two with me,
all rushing ahead
of ourselves.

Gentlemen! he boomed,
handouts in place
of a handshake.
We opened them
right there.

Next time, I returned
alone
not a wink for me
that night.

Clear moon showed
the quiet camp
of carnival joys soon
to wake,
stomach rumbling
as I knocked.

A girl in a loose dress
hid from sight.
He tucked himself, then,
Sir! More refreshment?
This way.

He brought me
to a cage
on wheels,
nothing in there but
a hound
watching some hens.

You sit there,
pet the dog,
keep ‘em quiet.
He pointed around the edges.
I went in
ready to fill my gut. 

Then a bottle dropped
into the hay:
Come back tomorrow!—

I sure found him then,
at the cage. Welcoming
me in.
Once inside,
he latched the door.

Like they
suddenly found me,
all the carnies watched,
cheers and laughing.

He pointed to a bird,
the others chanting
a shriek of a word,
him swinging a bottle
like it was my bell.

Twisting his fist
in front of his mouth,
teeth clicking,
to me nodding.

I looked at the bird,
its twitching neck,
nervy beak.
The pit of fire in me
was right there
with death,
a choking
I couldn’t stop.

And I began to chase.

Matthew Sorrento is Editor-in-chief of Retreats from Oblivion and Co-editor of Film International. He teaches film and media studies at Rutgers University in Camden.

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