Home >> Volume 4, Issue 02

Smokey’s Greatest Shows

Lee Evans

The unknown man had worked for them before
At last year’s carnival in the midway,
At the Heritage Days celebration.
On the third day of that four day event
He hanged himself from a storage trailer,
Leaving his fellow workers shorthanded.

Unknown he was to us, the readers of
The town newspaper, and to most of those
Who worked with him; also to the police,
Who carefully held back from us his name,
Pending investigation, for his name
Was all they could divine.
                                           But how could we
For that matter know each other, or ourselves—
Our senses stifled and distracted so,
By head-bangers up on Center Stage,
The cries of barkers, smoke of wild sparklers,
Wash-away tattoos? While incessantly
The Ferris Wheel of birth and death revolved,
Like a mandala of wrathful deities…

Despite the fact that this is a small town,
We know each other only partially,
And often not at all. We have to read
About the woman who for twenty years
Has held a front row seat before the stage,
Sometimes three or four hours in advance,
To listen to an impersonator sing
His repertoire of Elvis Presley songs.

“I’ve got nine scarves on my headboard,” she said.
“He always bends down and gives me a kiss.
I’m a Star for one day, then I have to wait
A whole year before I’m a Star again.”

They worked together at the shipyard once,
The impersonator and his avid fan.
“And when he won the world championship,
He brought that trophy right up to my desk
And let me be the first to see it.”
Excuse this long digression, but it seemed
To me that somehow this was apropos. 
I started out by telling how a man
Committed suicide, and how unknown
He was, in several senses of the word;
The rest is speculation and surmise.
We do that in small towns, to pass the time.

I wonder if he saw no more in life
Than what the carnival could offer him,
Whose worldly belongings swung in an old back pack
Used as his pillow in the cab of a truck
Parked by the trailer where he hanged himself.

When we watched the fireworks that Sunday night
To celebrate Independence Day, the man
Was lying unclaimed in the city morgue—
His body, anyway—though his life force
Still swirled about us in the smoke and sparks
Of the visions that exploded in the sky
Above the dark and shining Kennebec
Like the rockets over Fort McHenry,
Revealing our Flag in the lurid glare…

The show was over in no time at all,
And we dispersed to go our separate ways
To home, and sleep, and the forgetfulness
That even then enveloped us as we rose
From the damp grass and shook out our blankets.
The next morning the carnival left town,
And things returned to normal once again.