Jack Grapes: My Rodeo

Jack Grapes is an award-winning poet, playwright, actor, teacher, and the editor and publisher of the long-running ONTHEBUS, one of the top literary journals in the country. This poem is from Jack Grapes’s new book, The Naked Eye.


My Rodeo

I’m ashamed of my cheap rodeo,
so I keep it secret from my friends.
It’s not even as big as theirs
and needs constant repair.
“How’s your rodeo?” someone asks at a party.
“Fine!” they chirp up.
Everyone jumps at the chance
to extol the virtues of their rodeo.
Pretty soon a circle gathers
and everyone’s discussing its size,
weather control, the acoustics, the peanuts.
If I stay in my corner someone will notice  and ask about mine.
I don’t want to talk about it.
So I join in, chirping up with you-don’t says, and isn’t-that-amazings, and what-about-the-functional-glitter?
By the time I get home
I’m exhausted from avoiding the subject of my rodeo.
I get home and there it is,
not much on weather control, lousy acoustics, styrofoam peanuts.
There’s no sub-culture, no glitz-trimming, no contour illuminations, not even jacket hitch where the top bolt exceeds the maintenance quota lining.
I’m embarrassed and ashamed of the damn thing, give it a kick and stub my toe, then cover it with a sheet.
Maybe smother it.
I am a man who comes home depressed, lonely, frustrated, who tries to smother his rodeo, his cheap rodeo.
And I haven’t even the courage to do that.
Imagine smothering one’s rodeo.
The shame would haunt me the rest of my life.
So after while, I take the sheet off and go to bed, hear its slight breathing throughout the night, its occasional cough, the short low moan just before daybreak. My cheap rodeo.

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