Agricultural Fair

Tina Barr

Four little pigs ran in an orbit, an oblong
of four tracks, each ringed with a colored
collar, toward a pile of neon Cheetos,
then disappeared into their home trailer.
The caller, a hefty farmer, picked me, said,
“You’ve never been on a farm before in your
life,” and he was right. I wanted my piglet
to win, urged her—or him—in the racket.
Geese hustled, orange shoed, then goats.
In the Mother Moo barn—huge, aluminum—
twin calves, day old, collapsed in the hay;
we hoped their mother knew not to step
near their flicked-back ears, their sloe-eyed
wonder. The family wore coats burnished
the color of composted clay. Tiny chicks
hovered under the feathered skirts of a hen,
disappeared there, under their mother,
yellow and black, downy, washing forward
in little waves, toward a dish of dried corn.
Two giant swinging shovels rose up, turned
people inside their cages upside down, fell,
swooped past, dragging screams in a path.
My mother lay content, as if in hay; I put
my head on her stomach, told her to wait
for me to come back. “Just put her in a diaper,”
said my sister, “and tell her not to get out
of bed.” I slept on the couch; she rang
a bell when she needed me to walk her
to the bathroom at night. I held her waist,
while she scooted the walker ahead.

Tina Barr lives in a pine-log cabin on the side of a mountain in Black Mountain, North Carolina, where she has to watch for copperheads and black widow spiders. Her book The Gathering Eye won the Tupelo Press Editor’s Prize, and her other awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. She has had work published in the Antioch Review, the Mississippi Review, New South, Shenandoah, and Witness.

“Agricultural Fair” appears in our Autumn 2014 issue.