"Around, around we go and where we stop nobody knows"
History is a ride without beginning or stop.
Did this circle begin in Byzantine in 500 A.D?
Riders were in baskets, suspended from a central pole.
Or did it begin with Crusaders
being mocked by Turkish and Arab horsemen?
No prophecies could see where this would go,
let alone in a circle.
The Industrial Revolution spun things out of control —
gears slipped, offset cranks,
platforms rotated like the cosmos —
things leading into other things
to make things more efficient —
All these things would mass produce war
making things breakable — like hearts.
And where, oh where, is the progress in that?
They never left the theme of horses —
galloping in a cycle of nowhere,
simulating what was not real
into what felt real,
no sweat on their backs,
no lost horseshoes,
stationary or bobbing,
imagining green pastures.
The platform was for people to walk on,
holding their children
from being bucked off
Some of the horses had chariots
for complete families
or for those preferring a gentler ride.
Some of the horses would come alive at night.
Band organs were added.
But when it was too expensive
to hire an actual organist,
electric motors and lights
provided a supplementary
Progress seems to eliminate jobs.
sent a complete large carousel
packed away on the steamship.
The voyage felt like a horse ride.
Several styles of merry-go-rounds appeared
as afterthoughts with careful planning:
Coney Island style
with elaborate faux-jewel saddles;
Philadelphia realistically-painted saddles;
Country fair type with no saddles;
Horses of Appalachian white pine,
basswood, yellow poplar,
manes tossed by unreal air,
expressive eyes almost pleading —
make it stop —
other animals subjected —
pigs, lions, seahorses, ravens,
elephants with turbans.
There was a time when
if you snagged a ring with a stick
while riding on a moving horse
you would get a free ride.
The ring was the size of a donut;
the stick end was wider than the hole —
the illusion of success was a part of the ride —
wooden horses laughing at your failure.
A child was afraid the horses
would bite have to be removed.
After the ride,
the operator fed the horse a lump of sugar.
Children always can see the truth.
Martin Willitts Jr is a retired Librarian living in Syracuse, New York. He was nominated for 8 Pushcart and 7 Best of the Net awards. He provided his hands-on workshop "How to Make Origami Haiku Jumping Frogs" at the 2012 Massachusetts Poetry Festival. Winner of the 2012 Big River Poetry Review’s William K. Hathaway Award; co-winner of the 2013 Bill Holm Witness Poetry Contest; winner of the 2013 "Trees" Poetry Contest; winner of the 2014 Broadsided award; winner of the 2014 Dylan Thomas International Poetry Contest in honor of the centennial. Recent chapbooks include "The Constellations of Memory and Forgiveness" (Seven Circles Press, web book, 2014), "A Is For Aorta" (Kind of Hurricane Press, e-book, 2014), national chapbook contest winning "William Blake, Not Blessed Angel But Restless Man" (Red Ochre Press, 2014), and "Swimming in the Ladle of Stars" (Kattywompus Press,2014). His recent full-length collections are national award winner "Searching for What You Cannot See" (Hiraeth Press, 2013), and “Before Anything, There Was Mystery” (Flutter Press, 2014).
The poem "Carousel" will appear in a forthcoming chapbook, "The Way Things Were" (Writing Knights Press).
© 2013 Martin Willetts, used by permission