It’s hard to describe how that day in the park
was altered when I stopped to read
an official sign I came across near the great carousel,
my lips moving silently like the lips of Saint Ambrose.
As the carousel turned in the background,
all pinions and mirrors and the heads of horses
rising to the steam-blown notes of a calliope,
I was learning how the huge thing
was first designed to be powered
by a blind mule, as it turned out,
strapped to the oar of a wheel in an earthen
room directly below the merry turning of the carousel.
The sky did not darken with this news
nor did a general silence fall on the strollers
or the ball players on the green fields.
No one even paused to look my way,
though I must have looked terrible
as I stood there filling with sympathy
not so much for the harnessed beast
tediously making its rounds,
but instead of the blind mule within me
always circling in the dark —
the mule who makes me turn when my name is called
or causes me to nod with a wooden gaze
or sit doing nothing on a bench in the shape of a swan.
Somewhere, there must still be a door
to that underground room,
the lock rusted shut, the iron key misplaced,
last year’s leaves piled up against the sill,
and inside, a trance of straw on the floor,
a whiff of manure, and maybe a forgotten bit
or a bridle hanging from a hook in the dark.
Poor blind beast, I sang softly as I left the park.
poor blind me, poor blind earth turning blindly on its side.