“Sad Rollercoaster,” a Poem by Jared Harél

My daughter is in the kitchen, working out death.
She wants to get it: how it tastes and feels.
Her teacher talks like it’s some glittery gold sticker.
Her classmates hear rumors, launch it as a curse
when toys aren’t shared. Between bites of cantaloupe,
she considers what she knows: her friend’s grandpa lives only
in her iPad. Dr. Seuss passed, but keeps speaking
in rhyme. We go to Queens Zoo and spot the beakish skull
of a white-tailed deer tucked between rocks
in the puma’s enclosure. It’s just for show, I explain,
explaining nothing. That night and the one after,
my daughter dreams of bones—how they lift
out of her skin and try on her dresses. So silly! she laughs,
when I ask if she’s okay. Then toward the back-end
of summer, we head to Coney Island to catch
a Cyclones game. We buy popcorn and fries. A pop fly arcs
over checkerboard grass when past the warning track,
the park wall, she sees a giant wooden spine,
this brownish-red maze traced in decay. She calls it
Sad Rollercoaster, then begs to be taken home.


let our bodies change the subject

Excerpted from Let Our Bodies Change the Subject by Jared Harél. Copyright © 2023. Available from University of Nebraska Press.

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