Apr/May 2001  •   Poetry  •   Special Feature

Sideshow Jo

by Natalie Kring

Sideshow Jo

is scrunched against the bus window,
a green expanse of seat beside her.
Her head rattles with the pane
as she stares blankly through it,
rays illuminating the velvet of her face.

Those shanties streaking by must look like home,
gray and splintered like her mother's hair.
I heard the woman once weaved a hat for Jo
with their pregnant collie's fur—an apology
for the litter they could not keep.

Then she took her to the carnival,
where those giggling girls gave her that name,
those girls who tugged off the hat because it stunk,
then stuffed it back on, calling her pink scalp
baby rats sleeping in a nest.

Jo is sleeping now, or just tired of the scenery.
Tears trickle through transparent lashes and dissolve
into tangled strands of burnt sienna sticking to her skin.
Her sun-splotched face turns toward vinyl; there is so much space,
and nothing to cradle her head.