Adam Tavel


She’s famous still, a local god, the girl
who yanked a Chevy above her waist
just high enough, a shriek three seconds long,

until her father freed the mangled hose
his leg became, scarleting the grass.
At eight she had the wherewithal to call

and give the dispatcher her address
before she slammed inside the screen to fetch
a towel to wrap the gore. She never named

the song she hummed against his glaucous lips
that faded into kisses for two temples
rag-dolled in her lap. The Catholic fireman

first on the scene would later say he shut
his siren off before the farm to spare
them all the noise—his migraine, barbwire cows,

and the farmer’s tiny child he thought
he’d find but didn’t find, discovering instead
a bent Madonna, tearless in the hush.


in dizzy pony lights I can’t recall
how many times around because they smiled
those intermittent faces as I whirled
that seemed so old inside their weariness
their ghosts a decade younger than me now
who perched me on a saddle made of light
to tug the reins that bolted to a jaw
contorted in a frozen open neigh
for every summer orphan’s hands that grimed
their manes with popcorn grease or sugar dust
from funnel cakes we tore apart to make
the circle end and overbright the bulbs
rainbowing night so nearby towns would know
whatever joy they spun was incomplete

Adam Tavel is the author of four books of poetry, including the forthcoming Sum Ledger (Measure Press, 2021). His most recent collection, Catafalque, won the Richard Wilbur Award (University of Evansville Press, 2018). His recent poems appear, or will soon appear, in The Georgia Review, The Gettysburg Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Ninth Letter, The Los Angeles Review, Midwest Quarterly, 32 Poems, and Tampa Review, among others. You can find him online at and on Twitter at @fawnabyss

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