A Poem by Justin Jannise


Never remove your head
in front of children. That’s the rule.
Friendly, giant, ostracized cartoon,
overstuffed skull. Joystick in hand,
the man who operates the bear has us
shifting our weight on the benches.
Has us turning around for the pretzel’s
warm, bland dough.
He came to us
from underneath the blond streetlamp,
a sewer skunk slippery with mid-century fur.
Like a real animal, he evolved
from cheerleader’s charge
to digital-age antihero, from wheeling
along the string lights of the sidelines
to catapulting, center stage, a mutant
with an axe to grind for our cause.
Is there a skit afoot? A draw? A duel?
A stadium wave for us to throw
ourselves into by staying put?

Justin Jannise studied poetry at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His work appears in the Yale Review, North American Review, and Zocalo Public Square. He lives in Houston.

The Poetry Section is edited by Mark Bibbins.