at the county fair
Smiles. High-fives. Backslaps and hugs.
Neighborly chat about last night’s needed rain,
this morning’s cloudless horizons and soothing breeze.
In the arena, clear-eyed 4H-ers parade
project goats and bottle lambs.
As the judges
award ribbons and trophies, we cheer
for the simple luxury of it all, our snug
community, green lawns, double-car
garages, our good jobs, good pay. We sing
the anthem, honor the flag, join the church choir.
Sure, we can’t survive completely comfortable as might
at first seem. Forgive us if we put away
— mercifully so — extraordinary pains of our
ordinary lives. Forgive us, if we fend off
news of wars and famine as if to wave back
swarms of bothersome gnats.
Let us forgive ourselves
when a late night wind wakes us trembling in darkness,
wafts the curtains aside, and enters unwanted.
For now, let’s take a fistful of dollars
— all of us — and mill about on the midway.
Let’s thrill ourselves on the Scrambler, tossed headlong
like astronauts hurling toward the moon. Let’s
spin upside-down in the Iron Tornado. And scream.
Lowell Jaeger (Montana Poet Laureate 2017-2019) is founding editor of Many Voices Press, author of eight collections of poems, recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Montana Arts Council, and winner of the Grolier Poetry Peace Prize. Most recently Jaeger was awarded the Montana Governor’s Humanities Award for his work in promoting thoughtful civic discourse.