French Carousel

Midnight in Paris, the party scene at the
Musée des Arts Forains: a velocipede,
nineteenth century French carousel
designed to help adults make the shift

from horses to bicycles. The more riders
pedal, the faster it goes. In the park,
I buy tickets to sit on the only other one
that remains intact, waiting to circle with

the man who feels lucky in life
to be able to complain the bread is stale.
Tourists hover on the edge, wonder
whether the stuck-in-place bicycles

are worth a ride, this machine that once
elicited mania everywhere from
Coney Island to England, and now,
like the man, projects the diminished

expectation that it will be forward,
backward, ending where we begin.
As we start, I lock the chain across my lap
to keep from falling. When I turn and smile,

the one that reassures yes, we can have
anything, he doesn’t smile back.
Surely he’s thinking when direction shifts,
how easy it would be to slide away.

Author: Susana H. Case