Johnny Worked the Carnival

He puts the rides together, assembling the pieces every five days like clockwork in a new town. I miss him, but I won’t say because Daddy tossed him out “ass over tin cup” when he found out. And Mama knew, she shoved money into his hands while the blood was still wet on his face. Ones and fives she had wadded under our baby blankets in her hope chest, reeking of cedar and stale smoke. Somewhere in town they had been holding hands, maybe behind the old church in the dry grass between the mesquite trees. Tobias maybe running his fingers up the length of Johnny’s leg. Someone told Daddy about his faggot son. And Johnny told me it didn’t matter how many girls he kissed, how many he took up in the loft of the barn next door, he told me please, please, please the way Mama said it when she grabbed the rosary in one hand and a cigarette in the other. I can drive the same miles, maybe find Johnny in a parking lot, building and breaking down those terrible rides, starting and stopping in each new place.



Nicole Provencher-Natale is a poet and English teacher. She lives in Ohio where she writes, quilts, and raises chickens, ducks, and goats with her husband. Nicole’s recent publications appear in the Concho River Review, Nimrod, Karamu, Nexus, and The Lullwater Review.