Listen to Podcast Interview with Grace Cavalieri on The Poet and the Poem

My Spirit Animal

I'm in the back of the squad car like a perp,
(the seats are too big. I feel like Alice),
and I hear, in the police chatter, the word "carnie."
It fits with the gamey smell of the blood running down my arm.
The gauze from the paramedics has already unraveled.

Carnie? They can't know, it's just their best guess
but I go with it, thinking,
it was different with the last one, in the last town
and it will be different with the next woman in the next town.
It will be a seedy act.

To me, he's a cipher and a trickster.
I met him, not amid the shrieks of children
and the smell of old grease,
but in a verdant place a quarter mile from the fairgrounds.

This mysterious beast had the gift of speech.
He said, "Lie down on the ground."
He presented me with a challenge.
He granted me a wish.

I screamed the way I should have long ago.
I screamed as he threw me onto the gravel.
I screamed until he ran away.

I didn't say,
as I have so often in bedrooms and living rooms and conference rooms,
"How can I help you meet your needs without wounding myself too badly?"

Janet Walenta