“Sad Rollercoaster,” a Poem by Jared Harél

3 weeks ago 49

My daughter is in the kitchen, working out death.
She wants to get it: how it tastes and feels.
Her teacher talks like it’s some glittery gold sticker.
Her classmates hear rumors, launch it as a curse
when toys aren’t shared. Between bites of cantaloupe,
she considers what she knows: her friend’s grandpa lives only
in her iPad. Dr. Seuss passed, but keeps speaking
in rhyme. We go to Queens Zoo and spot the beakish skull
of a white-tailed deer tucked between rocks
in the puma’s enclosure. It’s just for show, I explain,
explaining nothing. That night and the one after,
my daughter dreams of bones—how they lift
out of her skin and try on her dresses. So silly! she laughs,
when I ask if she’s okay. Then toward the back-end
of summer, we head to Coney Island to catch
a Cyclones game. We buy popcorn and fries. A pop fly arcs
over checkerboard grass when past the warning track,
the park wall, she sees a giant wooden spine,
this brownish-red maze traced in decay. She calls it
Sad Rollercoaster, then begs to be taken home.


Excerpted from Let Our Bodies Change the Subject by Jared Harél. Copyright © 2023. Available from University of Nebraska Press.

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