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David Sherman

At the Merry-Go-Round

"does he guess what he appears

to know: where all is bad it must be

good to bless the worst?"

Richard Howard, Lining Up


My daughter wants to spend all day here

on the merry-go-round, but Id prefer

she go once and cherish the memory

forever.  Im willing to remind her.

I would like to raise her with just the right

combination of lies and apologies

to keep her from publishing her memoirs.

She asks where meat comes from and I say, oh,

magic orchards.  In a few years Ill explain

that if god didnt want animals

processed on disassembly lines,

they wouldnt be so apolitical.

My daughter believes in god.  I once

sued god for malpractice but was counter-

sued for theft: my existence is not my own

any more than my D.N.A.  I lost

the case on appeal.  God donated my

money to those who chain themselves to trees,

their tribal elders, as it were, gone mute.

I also hear that people still save whales,

but I assured my daughter that when whales

are eliminated someone will start

a cable channel about them.  Such

promises prevent radicalism

in the young.  She should learn to express her

moral beliefs as financial investments,

like militant ex-hippies.  Prisons are

a good investment these days.  My broker

has spent time in several and, ever

eager to profit from his misfortune,

wants to create a line of charter schools

based on principles of solitary

confinement.  Such pedagogies enhance

American individualism.

Im not against educating my daughter.

I try to make her daily life as much

like a standardized test as possible

so shell get into college.  Shes punished

for ambiguity, historical

relativism and other common

conceptual inefficiencies,

with the obvious exception

of the electoral college.  I dont

have anything against democracy,

but dont understand why we need it now

that the Dow Jones is over ten-thousand.

Not that I own stock.  Ive hated abstract

forms of property ever since my ex-

wife accused me of treating her like one.

I tried to earn interest on our

emotional exchanges until she

became a communist and redistributed

our emotions to others.  I told

my daughter that communists dont really

exist, but if they did, theyd nationalize

my business.  I run a consulting firm

for suicidal celebrities seeking

mythic deaths.  Sometimes I worry life bores

my daughter, so I pretend the lottery

is illegal, that we buy our tickets

in risky deals with vicious criminals.

Same with my weekend heroin.  In the

meantime, the Supreme Court has decided

that Manhattan and Beverly Hills

revert to Indian tribal ownership,

starting tomorrow.  Location, location,

location.  The Supreme Court also upheld

a new federal law requiring

the upper and lower classes to switch

every five years.  My daughter cried at the news

so I doubled the ritalin.  Were on a

family prescription.  The historians

are debating if any tragedies

foreshadowed these farces, as suggested

in certain newsletters.  The Support Groups

for the Perplexed are taking to the streets.

The walk-a-thons have refused to go home

until everything is cured.  My daughter,

whom I love as much as I know how,

has started a nationwide trend of referring

to ones parents in the conditional tense.

I fear a new wave of grammatical

terrorism.  It feels like another

transitional moment in history.

In that case, the nation will need more barbed

wire, although well disagree over

which neighborhoods to put it in.  Maybe

all of them, so that we always feel at home

and never feel at work, or vice versa.

Maybe everyone will get confused

and go on strike at once, repeating the Great

Tree Climbing Riots of 1993,

when no one was left on the ground but

the dead we had forgotten to bury.


David Sherman teaches literature and writing in New York City, where he lives with his wife and his baby daughter; he considers it somehow appropriate that the latter was conceived and born long after this poem.  His work has appeared in The Threepenny Review, The Minnesota Review, The Iowa Review (forthcoming), and elsewhere.

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