Iowa Writes

MELANIE BRAVERMAN
I woke up thinking of the county fair


I woke up thinking of the county fair, the girls in their spiffy Western wear, the boys with their slicked hair showing off the hogs they raised.  It never seemed to bother them that after the ribbons were awarded and they went on home someone, probably their fathers, would send the prize-winning hogs off to slaughter as sure as those undecorated ones would be.  Death was part of the deal going in, everyone but us town kids knew that.  I loved the green trees, the rallies in the late afternoons at the fairgrounds with everyone cheering whomever was up there speaking.  I loved the horses in their clean stalls and the grassy smell of lambs and the other animals too. I loved the long Quonset huts full of agricultural displays, the rows of jam and science experiments, the fattest pumpkin, the longest ear of corn.  All those displays infused with the essence of silent activity, the great feeling of one person's work and attention.  Daily work no one saw, moved forward not on the fuel of approbation but on the simple desire of a solitary person to proceed.  I liked the pencils and scenic calendars they gave away for free at the insurance booths.  I liked appliance salesmen tying bright ribbons on their new fans that made the sticky air feel colder when they blew.  Our county fair was so small I could wander for a long time and never get lost.  I loved the chicken house at the fair, the little bantams and russet cocks, the way their red combs flared in the shade against the yellow straw.

I woke up thinking of the county fair, the girls in their spiffy Western wear, the boys with their slicked hair showing off the hogs they raised.  It never seemed to bother them that after the ribbons were awarded and they went on home someone, probably their fathers, would send the prize-winning hogs off to slaughter as sure as those undecorated ones would be.  Death was part of the deal going in, everyone but us town kids knew that.  I loved the green trees, the rallies in the late afternoons at the fairgrounds with everyone cheering whomever was up there speaking.  I loved the horses in their clean stalls and the grassy smell of lambs and the other animals too. I loved the long Quonset huts full of agricultural displays, the rows of jam and science experiments, the fattest pumpkin, the longest ear of corn.  All those displays infused with the essence of silent activity, the great feeling of one person's work and attention.  Daily work no one saw, moved forward not on the fuel of approbation but on the simple desire of a solitary person to proceed.  I liked the pencils and scenic calendars they gave away for free at the insurance booths.  I liked appliance salesmen tying bright ribbons on their new fans that made the sticky air feel colder when they blew.  Our county fair was so small I could wander for a long time and never get lost.  I loved the chicken house at the fair, the little bantams and russet cocks, the way their red combs flared in the shade against the yellow straw.  I never went on rides but I liked to watch the people who did, who clutched and screamed and let their long hair go wild in the wind.  I ate corndogs and wandered the skimpy midway admiring the tattoos on the big forearms of the workers.  Not even on their biceps!  I loved their cheekiness, their audacity.  I was a big girl and they leered at me, at all the girls and young women, it was their avocation to do so.  I wasn't alone very often, so the times I was felt like traveling.  I liked passing invisibly through the world.  And the world passed through me, too. I feel the steady lope of the river in my hometown and the hula of the willows on the banks.  I feed the ducks, I watch little kids ride the Ferris wheel in the park.  I'm here alone, in an old car with big seats.  I don't come here to walk, to picnic or to jog.  I sit and smoke.  I watch.  I am wondering how I can get away from here, how I can get out as soon as possible, but how soon that is doesn't seem entirely up to me.  I didn't buy one article of clothing for myself until I was sixteen, a flocked pink shirt of tender cotton I bought three sizes too big, on purpose I told my mother when she looked at the tags.  Back then I didn't love my body in any subjective way, when I looked in the mirror I saw a big soft girl with too much belly to be sexy and not enough ass to be interesting.  What I loved was the fact of it, the body free of scrutiny, the loose sway of that shirt on my skin.  I loved the cottonwoods along the river filling the air in summer so that, for a couple of weeks anyway, it seemed the hot world was full of snow.  I loved the way the world turned in on itself so nothing was the way you thought it was supposed to be, like the blue-yellow light our fish tank gave long into the night, the sound of my mother turning like an animal in her sleep, the tank and the turning indelibly linked in my mind.  When I think of her now I think of this:  county fair, animals, passing through, the way the thought of her comes not as image but as— what: dream, place, ghost.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


MELANIE BRAVERMAN

Melanie writes, "I was born and raised in Iowa City, where most of my immediate family still resides. Though I've lived on Cape Cod for nearly thirty years, much of my work—from its often pastoral subject matter to its rolling syntax—owes much to my Iowan roots.  This is a long poem from a book-length gesture called The World With Us In It." Braverman is the author of the novels East Justice and Red (winner of the 2002 Audre Lorde poetry award). She teaches at Brandeis University.

This page was first displayed
on April 09, 2010

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