Jessica Khailo πŸ”ˆ

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We win a little light before we lose it.
No one’s surprised by this.
Nothing’s more natural than a push and a pull
getting weird when you think about it.
It only feels like falling when we notice it
happening at Midsummer, but there’s nothing
more natural than riding the tilt-a-whirl.
Centrifugal force keeps all the “You” in you,
burbling at the back of your throat, screaming
till the ride jock lets you off so you
can lose yourself in the honey bucket, remember
who you were the last few times it happened, then
line up with your new face on to do it all again.
No one’s surprised by this.
Everyone knows.

The carnival high wears off into exhaustion.
No one’s surprised by this.
I read somewhere it’s 7 years
before a ride jock earns the moniker of showman.
7 being a holy number we force into our music.
7 luminaries as rungs on a ladder to teach us
7 sins for 7 virtues. We build 7 levels on the ziggurat
each time before it falls again into 7 seas, 7 wonders,
7 days to shout a universe. Remember
7 numbers so you can call your mother, call
your lawyer when you kill the lamb with 7 horns and
7 eyes to face 7 bowls of wrath for being human.
When you consider it’s 7 years dilated into god time
from ride jock to showman, nothing’s more natural
than tilting and whirling as long as they’re learning
which buttons to push. It’s easier not to think
about it unless you really have to.
No one’s surprised by this.
Everyone knows.

Heat can be catching.
No one’s surprised by this.
In Summer, we talk about pain like it’s funny
and try not to live where the fires can
get us to admit we left all of it there just to feel it
again when the children aren’t looking. We love
a world of endless cycles, to know
what comes next is what came before and
catch it off guard by not crying as loudly
the next time our heart’s on the outside,
bee stung and strung up with the others. 5 darts
for 3 dollars seems like a bargain if you get to feel
something, but one thing I’ve learned
about prayer is that “no” is an answer.
No one’s surprised by this.
Everyone knows.

Some days are longer than others.
No one’s surprised by this.
We don’t need a solstice to tell us it’s harder
to sleep when the light’s on or that sleeping
too much is a sign of depression when
it’s still warm enough for a sundress and sandals,
for snow cones drizzled with condensed milk,
for funnel cakes and funhouse mirrors.
In Summer, it’s easy to lose yourself and call it
invention or freedom. There’s nothing
more natural than shedding your skin when
it itches too much to keep dancing.
It only feels like dying when we notice
it happening. Practice not noticing it’s already
Midsummer as the sun makes fun of glaciers
by melting cherry popsicles. Remember,
nothing lasts forever, but everything
comes back in style.
No one’s surprised by this.
Everyone knows.

The carnival leaves town, eventually.
No one’s surprised by this
other than kids with pouting faces pulled
home by tired mothers, relieved to be free of
the flashing and thrashing of loud lights and loud
music, loud joy and loud drunks. The
promise of darkness before 9 p.m. means quiet
children, even if they fight with nodding heads
and blinking eyes. The call of dreams is urgent
and compelling if the ride jock lets them
on the Ferris wheel they were turned away
from earlier – always too short for the most
benign journeys, too young to know why.
They can stop at the top and experience bigness
before they are ready, watch as the monsters
sink under their feet. Distance makes the
big beasts feel smaller.
No one’s surprised by this.
Everyone knows.

Author Reading

About the Author

Jessica Khailo (she / her) lives in Washington State with her husband, two children, and two very good dogs. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys complaining on walks through the woods, knitting, creating dodgy artwork, and singing her heart out like no one is listening. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Citron Review, The Jupiter Review, Gastropoda, Coffin Bell Journal, Phantom Kangaroo, Amethyst Review, and Door is a Jar Magazine. Find her on Twitter @littlejezzie, on Instagram @jez_high_low or on her website