Daniel James Sundahl
Monologue of the Last Performing Tattooed Lady
Turned to the north again this summer,
Roads up-spooling across the Dakotas,
Wheat going yellow above the dark soil,
Redwings talking openly above the cat-tails.
My daughter writes about her child,
Sewing dresses for her dolls, reading books,
In April finding a lost dog.
She has re-decorated the front room,
Describing for me the new south window,
The warm yellow curtains, the flower-box,
A personal grievance with the paper-hanger.
A year, or another year, the child will forget.
Are you happy? she writes. Are you tired?
Where will you live. I'll say a rosary.
The scene replays: tricycles, blue-eyed dolls;
Life, a comedy salted with despair.
I remember laundry hanging on the lines to dry,
Her husband on a ladder by the tree,
Rope and hands making a swing,
The child crying when I held her.
Today it was dark for awhile, the air
A clear bluish-green before the noon rain.
Tonight there is sheet lightning to the west,
Sudden like the moments memory gives us.
The penguin-boy, his hands above his forearms,
Sits on the ground by the truck.
His brain bulges against his forehead.
I button his mildewed yellow shirt.
Men who are boys walk the midway,
Searching for a spirit to bring them luck.
Two mothers pass with their children;
They touch their throats and cough.
A priest stops and closes his eyes.
A voice speaks his name; he listens
To a tale told by a blooming rose,
Repeats a prayer out loud to no one.
In the grandstand, the fireworks begin.
In the show-barns, the animals groan.
The penguin-boy springs to his feet,
Laughing at the strangeness of our lives.