Today's poem is by Lynne McMahon

Street Fair

He's swayed over to count her cranes,
strung on fairy lights around the kiosk,
and declaim woozily that he planes
balsawood for perches and that she ought,

as befits a fashioner of origami,
to take a lesson from him. To string them
in flight suggests an orthodoxy
he himself has fled, as befits the men

of his generation—sixties? hippie?—,
difficult to tell from his grizzled hair
and seamy face, but he could be tripping
even now the way he stares,

and why weren't women part of the thought?
She's patient with him. For fourteen,
she's remarkably composed, has been taught
to engage just enough to avoid a scene

but he won't leave, and keeps the other trade
away. All her hours of work—those beaks,
those impossible wings!—might fade
into nothing in the carious fume of his speech.

Free the spirit, he waves at the birds, vox
populi, Time is not money! And instantly,
from a dollar bill, he folds a Chinese box,
Washington's face creased so cleverly

the dome of his head becomes a Buddha-
belly, and the gray-green of the bill,
despite the falling dusk, a luculent
green. Beautiful, she agrees, opening the till

(Dutch Masters Cigars), May I buy it?
And he, ever mindful of the stage,
bows as one artful Luddite
to another, takes her dollar and strolls away.

Copyright © 2003 Lynne McMahon All rights reserved
from Quarterly West
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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