Peter Mulvey - Phoebe Ann

from by GennaRose Nethercott

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Phoebe Ann

Phoebe Ann is a real sharp shot
can knock the cap clean off of a bottle of pop.
Carnival-goers pay ten bucks a piece
to see her shoot a cigarette from the ticket man’s teeth.

But I’m a quick draw too; I’ve never been beat.
I don’t miss a mark & I never retreat.
I came to Cincinnati to the Old Oak Fair
to outdo the little girl with the violet hair.

I said, “Phoebe Ann, darlin’, I’ve got a proposition:
hit twenty-five targets— a simple competition.
I’ll outdo you, I even put two grand
on the trigger-ready skill of my own right hand.”

The first round was quick, the air full of powder;
the second as smooth, my ears ringing louder;
in the third miss Phoebe fired a wink my way.
My lungs turned to lead. My aim went astray.

She beat me right there at my own damn sport,
then took me by the arm & said “Won’t you escort
me on a Ferris wheel ride?” She packed up her gun
& bought a hot funnel cake with the money she’d won.

It started to rain on the big band stand.
The carnival shimmered like the promise land.
Spotlights flickered & the wild wind tossed.
There’s nothing to lose— I’d already lost.

The hurricane came like a cannonball,
snapped the horses right off the carousel.
I was making love to Annie in the penny arcade
as the sky fell in bullets on the bally stage.

Early next morning, the carnival had flown,
Phoebe gone with it, I woke up alone.
& the only proof that she’d ever been mine
was a casing in my pocket, her initials on the side.


from Modern Ballads, released January 29, 2018


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GennaRose Nethercott Somerville, Massachusetts

GennaRose Nethercott is the author of THE LUMBERJACK'S DOVE (Ecco/HarperCollins, forthcoming 2018), selected by Louise Glück as a winner of the National Poetry Series. Her other recent projects include A GHOST OF WATER (an ekphrastic collaboration with printmaker Susan Osgood) and the narrative song collection MODERN BALLADS. ... more

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