Word Juggler

age four, looking out the car’s side window,
azure sky, scudding clouds,
supine in the vast back seat of the Buick,
my mom and her boyfriend driving us home to Chicago
from a Bangs Lake beach day.

tree tops moved quickly above
like a nickelodeon
from my low vantage point of
cloth upholstery, no seatbelts back then.
bored, I tried to come up with

ditties on what I saw.
a Kleenex tissue caught
in one of the tree branches
as we whisked by.
how did it get up so high?

did the wind sneeze?
“Tissue on tree. Tree on tissue.”
then a treetop nest.
“Nest in branches.”
“Branch for nest.”

turning words on their heads,
my sandy feet reached toward the window,
my ponytail cradled a damp beach bag.
at a stoplight, a man crossed the street,
I could see only his upper body.

“Man on tree.”
“Tree on man.”
“Nest in his hair.”
“Tissue on man.”
“Man in a nest.”

such nonsense passed the time
until we got home.
little songs looped in my head
to make the trip go by.
even then, before I could write,

I realized that you could juggle words
and lines like clowns,
move them backwards and forwards
like checker pieces,
stack them like Lincoln Logs,

knock them down,
shuffle them like cards,
line them up & twist them
every which way
like we kids would when playing Crack the Whip.

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Cynthia Gallaher

Cynthia Gallaher, a Chicago-based poet, is author of four poetry collections, including Epicurean Ecstasy: More Poems About Food, Drink, Herbs and Spices (The Poetry Box, Portland, 2019), and three chapbooks, including Drenched (Main Street Rag, Charlotte, N.C., 2018). The Chicago Public Library lists her among its “Top Ten Requested Chicago Poets.” She is a WCDH alumna. See links below.

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