Carnival by Holaday Mason

So the woods (on that Midwestern island).
So the river(on my left side as I travel with my shadow).
So the crisscross vocabulary of leaf & shade (across the bracken path).
Then the memory of a teen age pop song (& my high soprano singing).
There—scent of skin (mine, theirs, the trees).
There—a smell of new blood.
Damp leaf musk under the mats of clouds,
the river edge stagnant in pools slow as milky coffee.
And it’s just before dead noon in the woods beyond the town.
And tomorrow or the next day the carnival would come.
Twelve years old is nothing & yet it’s everything brand new.
And the perfume of the water, the sudden burst of my first blood,
ribbons down my thighs in the woods, just before noon
or now slightly after. Then, the low squatting down both hands filling
with blood. And draining into mulch with the slow river’s music.
The flush of mourning doves through the ceiling of the trees.
And, tomorrow after dusk, the carnival would come, straddling
the low river near the cornfields while in town my grandmother
would still be standing upright drinking her red wine.
So I must have smelled of hunger rising.
And I must have made them very eager⎯ three tall boys
with one rotten fish they were swinging hitting trees,
near the muddy river banks the day before the carnival would
to set up all its’ glitter—Ferris wheel, dark side shows, cotton candy
in tidy rows like ballerinas, orange sawdust gently settled in a pond
inside the wide sea of corn I would later drive through in an old Mercedes
with the top down, all alone & singing. So on the day of first blood
I was wandering the woods & hidden things came real, an enormous rotten fish
slapping around my face & three large angry boys, before the carnival.
I bled alone in the woods, when a trout fat with gore struck my cheeks,
my hair & mouth, painting me a cape of scales, of fear, a large dead fish
now my crown, my rainbow shawl of rot, veil of womanhood.
So, I was twelve years old in the Wisconsin woodlands singing.
So I was a dense shadow of perfume. So, I was a sudden burst of everything
red. So, I was a girl alone, the mother, lover, ghost in a gifted gown
of fish scales, skin in my mouth, fish to the north, all day, all night
just before the carnival would rise up in the blue slanting corn fields
I’d one day drive through in an old car, alone, alone & singing.
Holaday Mason is the author of The Red Bowl: A Fable in Poems, (Red Hen Press 2016), The “She” Series: A Venice Correspondence (collaboration with Sarah Maclay, What Books Press, 016), Towards the Forest, 2007, Dissolve, 2011 (New River Press, University of Minnesota) & two chapbooks. “The Weaver’s Body”, was finalist with honorable mention for 014 Dorset Prize & her chapbook “ Transparency” was finalist for the Snowbound 2015. Nominated for three Pushcarts, widely published in national journals including Poetry International, Spillway, Pool, American Poetry among others & she was co- editor of Echo 68, poetry editor of Holaday is also a fine art & portrait photographer focusing on intimate portraits showing the beauty of aging. She is a psychotherapist in private practice since 1996.