Allison Fuentes

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Taylor and the Merry-Go-Round

Gleaming red and warmed from the summer sun,
the merry-go-round sat,
waiting for the first of September
when through the recess doors will burst
a pack of fifth graders
who will sprint past the big slide and past the swings and swarm past the tetherball pole to
the far end of the mulch where the group is pulled to the merry-go-round.
They are always attracted by its centrifugal force which separates the sissies from the boys
with each revolution and leaves the giggling monsters free of their pocket change and
the ability to walk straight as they stagger joyfully around, always returning for another go-round.

Taylor is a second grader.
Taylor walks slowly from the schoolhouse, eyes staring wide
through his thick Malcolm X horn-rimmed glasses at the sign,
rusty bolted to the inside surface of the metal recess door:
Taylor imagines his grown-up grip on the bars,
sneakers held fast to the diamond-plate floor,
wind whipping past his ears,
as he spins, spins, dizzy and spinning on the merry-go-round.
Three long years to wait.
Taylor chooses the slide instead.

Taylor is a third grader.
Taylor walks calmly from the schoolhouse and wipes his glasses on the hem of his shirt.
They are already there, the fifth graders,
all hands on the bars
running endlessly in circles until one yells
and then as one organism with 18 legs
all leap off the ground in take-off formation
tucking knees and feet in
and crouching low
making the circle of steel lurch faster in an instant.
It is a dance. It is a perfect moment.
Taylor chooses a swing at the far side of the mulch, so he can sit and watch.

Taylor is a fourth grader.
Taylor is as tall as a fifth grader, and for a moment
as the swarm gathers behind the recess doors
he considers trying to blend and sprint and make it
to the merry-go-round in time
for the first lift off of the school year.
But Mrs. Myron the gatekeeper spots him
and with a stern look sorts him from the crowd.
Taylor feels the wind of the pack as they rush past him.
Taylor’s classmate offers a game of basketball but
Taylor chooses to punch the tetherball alone, whipping it around and around faster and faster
matching the speed and rhythm of the fifth-graders on the merry-go-round.

Taylor is a fourth grader for two more days,
and then after one sweet summer, Taylor will be a fifth grader.
He stands at the far edge of the mulch, gazing at all he stands to inherit
when the fifth graders grab hold together and begin their practiced choreography.
something is wrong.
Taylor sees an imbalance in the spinning, even before the screaming starts.
He sees a pair of legs, slower than the others,
flailing, then dragging, even as the speed picks up.
Taylor sees them go around and around and around and
each time the color is darker, redder, as glossy red as the merry-go-round
and the screaming is louder.
Something is wrong.
He’s not letting go. He can’t let go.
Mrs. Myron sprints, pulled to the merry-go-round
and slows the spinning beast to stopping.
The boy and his broken bloody legs are mostly still now, too.
One side of the lanyard is stretched around his purpled neck
and the other is snarled around a bolt that connects a rail to the floor.

Taylor is a fifth grader.
Taylor is grinning as he takes his place at the front of the pack
pressed against the cool surface of the recess door.
Taylor takes in the glorious moment, imagining
his grown up hands gripping the bars
and his new size-seven sneakers holding fast to the diamond-plate floor
as the wind is whipping past his ears.
Just before the doors release and give way to the long-awaited freedom,
Taylor notices the new shiny sign:
The door and sign swing coolly open, slamming open with finality
on the brick wall of the schoolhouse.
Taylor, a frozen island in a sea of joyful faces,
glares at the second, third, and fourth graders
as they sprint past the big slide
and past the swings
and swarm past the tetherball pole to the far end of the mulch
where the group is pulled to the merry-go-round.
Taylor watches their unexpected joy from the across the empty mulch until tears blur his sight.
Heart spinning, Taylor pulls his glasses from his reddening face,
wipes them on the hem of his shirt,
and walks, dizzy, back to his classroom until recess is over.

(c) 2016 Allison Fuentes

Allison’s purpose for writing is to connect, share, and encourage others with similar interests and desires, especially smart, savvy women who have dedicated their lives to raising capable and accomplished citizens of the world.

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3 Responses to Allison Fuentes

  1. William Lord says:

    I absolutely love this poem. This is one of my favorites in a long time. The narrative is so heartbreaking – unexpected yet seemingly inevitable.

  2. MaryJo says:

    I agree Bill. It’s heartbreaking, I’m thinking Lehore, Pakistan, the children. We know it’s coming in this poem but we’re still hoping until we can’t.

  3. Allison Fuentes says:

    Thank you so much. I appreciate the feedback. I wanted to create something that spoke to something universal, rather than tackling a specific conflict. It was my hope that readers would draw their own parallels. I am delighted that you did!

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