Riding a Broken Roller Coaster

25 May 1991
I am on the scariest hill right now,
Just before the big dive into the amusement park.
I'm on the slowest part of the track,
The last second of climbing the first hill
Where everyone sort of levels off before
Gravity takes over and the people let go.
It's the part of the ride where details are noticed.,
The part where you can see who the lady is next to you,
Where you can see others noticing you,
It's the last slow-motion second, when the screaming woman
Behind you clenches her arms around her boyfriend,
And the woman next to you is like a ghost with red hair.
This is the point that I am at, but the red haired woman looks
Down the tracks and I have time to notice the terrible condition
Of the ride. The wooden frame is falling apart -
Even the red paint of the trim has dried and
Chipped. Along the rail next to the track,
A long strand of broken lightbulbs completes the picture.
I wonder where the missing section of track went off to,
And why am I on the big downhill, almost
Flying out of the old seat,
Coming closer and closer to the drop off ?
If I have enough speed at that point,
I can maybe sail across the park
And catch some branches on the way down.
Or I can find a manual brake,
And create such a friction and energy
On the old rails that for a second,
This section will light up again and
Become alive with the spirit of a carnival
And the calliope will keep time for some
Rising and lowering merry-go-round horses,
The ones with the broad chests and high gloss paints,
And especially the mighty wooden hooves.
I need to stop so suddenly that I'll have time to
Put my feet down - and, even if it's just for a second or two,
Walk into that crowd down there and
Get onto the back of a wooden horse with a new friend.

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