County Fair – James Penha

Light bulbs strung lit the cigarette
smoke and yellow teeth beneath
his cowboy hat. Heading, he asked
us, for Stella’s tent? He nodded
not us. That’ll get your dander up,
boys. That’ll get your dander up!
We downed our beers and lined up
outside the tent where a heavy-jowled
barker harnessed into his white shirt
and yellow checked pants promised
Stella would finish her show wearing
just the shoes on her feet and a smile
on her face. He grabbed a sawbuck
from each of us without, I exhaled,
even asking for the phony ID ready
in my hand and waved us past the flap
from which we rushed to the apron
of the waist-high stage. This is why
we had driven to the Honesdale
Fair, to be arm’s length from Stella
who invited, we had heard, fingers
to touch her breasts and even though
it seemed to me impossible to creep
inside her folds I only imagined
at sixteen. But the real adults around us
must have known such secret places
elsewhere in their lives so why did they
bellow so when the big follow spot
found the slit in the tattered curtain
from which emerged Stella in spangled
gown and glittery high-heel shoes. She
sashayed at center stage and swung
her long blond hair as she opened her eyes
to all of us, old and young, welcoming,
inviting, daring participation.
She bowed low to our cheers and arose
without her gown that carpeted then
the stage. Her breasts were huge enough
for a half-dozen hands to clutch at a time
when she bent over our gaping mouths and
laughed even when my best friend Matt
pinched her nipple not enough to hurt and
Stella got on all fours and slipped her hand
inside Matt’s shorts before raising a proud
thumb up. Matt took a ten from his pocket,
put it in the tasseled purse strung to Stella’s
wrist, and slyly moved his hand to Stella’s
sex still hidden beneath a sparkling gold
g-string. Stella gently moved Matt away as she
approached others to adore and admire her.
But when she finally doffed the panty she
returned to Matt and gave his fingers what
they paid for along with other hands relieved
of tens and twenties to find relief in Stella.
When too many tentacles swirled from
her groin, she pulled them apart, ever smiling,
to strut elsewhere in her starlight. Did you
get in? Matt whispered. I did. Like you. Like
Stella, I slipped my hand inside his shorts,
but I moved him till he came
though he would later blame the stain on Stella
who left us all with the shoes on her feet
and a smile on my face.

jpenhaA native New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past quarter-century in Indonesia. He has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and in poetry. His essay “It’s Been a Long Time Coming” was featured in The New York Times “Modern Love” column in April 2016. Penha edits TheNewVerse.News, an online journal of current-events poetry. @JamesPenha