Carnival on Camac Street, Philadelphia

 

summer slides in hot & wet

drags with it the carnival that grows

on the empty lot on Camac Street

where O’Conner & Fink & I sometimes played

stickball & where I stepped on a bee

my first sting      it didn’t hurt much

but the bee died

around the fallen insect

tents & rides    booths & caravans

overnight seemed to spring from the ground

replacing the dry grass  dead shrubs   with

colored lights  red  white  blue   lining the

midway  circling around & round the

Ferris wheel I was afraid to ride but if you

stopped at the top you could see all the way

to Birney School  where I’d return in the Fall

but now I was free   imagined running away

with the carnival because there was this

9 year old girl -my age-  so pretty & different from the

Jewish girls I knew who were my friends & because her mother

told fortunes in a shadowy tent lit with candles & because

walking down the midway each booth promised another chance

to win a giant bear to give to my girlfriend if I could

knock down the bottles or break balloons or

throw rings over the pegs each try just

a nickle  & ‘cause the carny smell led me to a

foreign land  fried foods cheap hot dogs

pink cotton sugar balls spun about a paper cone  & ozone

the spark of rides   the Tilt-a-Whirl  Bumper Cars  The Whip

enter the House of Horrors seated snugly tucked

in a rickety car its metal wheels clacking  sparking

hitting the metal doors with a stunning bang & you were

in a dark tunnel waiting for the witches skeletons

to attack   spewed out the back   with a whip-

like toss into the lights of the last fright –

the booth that sold tiny painted turtles 25 cents

that each year  I prayed would live forever but

never did always dying as summer ended

 

 

Like Other People

 

a complex distortion

face strange enough to be sold

odd enough to be called freak

he found refuge among those

who display their difference

under banners at carny midways

the misfits grifters roustabouts

whose otherness was more easily hidden

his true name lost  called by his shame

Jo-Jo the Dog Faced Boy  a Barnum gift

The Human Terrier –  the crowning mystery

of nature’s contradictions

 

normal folk felt better

knowing they were not him

 

Funicello made his misery a song

He starts to sing

Like a wounded hound

And the gals all screamed

And gathered round

 

everyone joined in the chorus

who cared there was a person

behind the hair

Bow wow, bow wow

Jo-Jo, the dog-faced boy

Bow wow, bow wow

Jo-Jo, the dog-faced boy

 

the howl so human

he cried as he told his friends

the truth of his desire

Eyes bugged out

Through a patch of wool

His face hung down

Like a Boston bull

 

all I want

is to be like other people

 

Allen Plone

When Plone moved to San Francisco from Philadelphia, aged 19, to continue college, the first place he visited, on that first weekend, was Cannery Row, in Monterey. A voracious reader his whole life and Steinbeck one of his favorite authors, it was his trip to the Holy Land. He walked the streets with Doc, and met all his favorite characters. No mystery why he became a writer. Allen makes his living in the film and television production industry as a writer and director. He holds a Master’s Degree Comp.Lit/Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and a PhD. History of Consciousness from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Spent 9 years as a college professor, at San Jose State University and the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he taught Philosophy, Literature and Psychology and Creative Writing. He also taught screenwriting at University of Southern California, in their Graduate Writers Program before becoming a full-time writer/director. Allen’s passion is and has always been poetry and children’s stories. He’s combined the two in five of the children’s books he’s written; they’re all in rhymed couplets. He has published many poems in such journals as: Light Journal of Poetry and Photography, Moon Journal of Poetry, BTS Journal, The Sea Letter Journal, Celidah: A Journal of Poetry and others. He has also published several short stories, including “The Cowboy of My Heart,” which won the Rosebud Best Short Story award.

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