The Skillet Toss
Harmony Fair, September 2002
A loose, laughing huddle of women
gathers alongside a swath of packed dirt,
hot children milling underfoot
clutching half-empty cans of soda;
and now husbands drift over, and we
arrive, who don’t throw skillets,
ready to cheer on our friend Tina,
who baby-sits our kids and doesn’t take shit.
Ask the contestants what they’re aiming at
this year, they’ll all say husbands.
Men are proud to have a wife who can
fracture skulls, if she thinks it’s worth her while.
They watch, amused but unsurprised—
married too long to doubt the plain lack
of vanity a high school sweetheart
acquires by forty. Tina practices her swing,
all knees and elbows under the sun;
the crowd watches, relaxed
and easy-tempered in the heat,
last hurrah of a Maine summer:
such weather can’t last; frost on the way:
in this town we never forget January;
so oh, the pleasure now of watching
sweat run down a brown arm,
first arc of a skillet in the heavy air
and the slow rise of dust when it lands:
Applause, laughter; Tina wipes
her forehead and takes aim for the next,
all eyes on her target: invisible Everyman
in the haze, asking for it, his voice
a low grumble of content, like oxen
flicking their tails in the barn—
and just fool enough to turn his back,
bare elbows propped on the fence,
watching a couple of ponies drag
their burden of concrete across the ring.
[from Boy Land & Other Poems (Deerbrook Editions, 2004).]
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Well, here in Harmony we are on fair countdown. Labor Day Weekend is always crammed with Labor in this town, and our annual fair is the most exciting thing that ever happens. We have a demolition derby (also featured on the cover of my new poetry collection); we have a truck pull; we have a horse show; we have lame inflatable rides; we have hotdogs and French fries; we have a skillet toss (for the ladies) and a hammer throw (for the men). Last year saw the introduction of the Gross Games (primarily for middle school students and wacked-out parents), which involve eating lots of squishy nasty food at top speed without using your hands. And we have my own particular Labor-intensive project: the exhibition hall . . . a.k.a, the tomatoes, the bread-and-butter pickles, the two-crust apple pies, the 4-Hers' explanation of how to groom a sheep, the guinea fowl eggs, the needlepoint cow. . . .
This year we also, apparently, have Hurricane Earl. So wish us luck.
Here's my Harmony Fair poem, from Boy Land. I've posted it more than once; but like the fair, it's turning into an annual event.
And if you haven't seen Tom's fair pictures, look here.
Dinner tonight: gazpacho, and plenty of it.