Circles of the Merry Go Round

Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one’s soul, and does not startle it or amaze it with itself, but with its subject
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          – John Keats

Circles of the Merry Go Round

The ride just goes round, never ending turn
it goes and goes and where it started
no one can say
But its end shall have us all, some day
some summer, some hot summer day

Step right up!  Pay your ticket!
climb on the shiniest, golden horse
let the motors grind and the music play
your greatest find that it should last all day,
all on a hot summers day

Ice cream melting, trickling
sticky fingers grabbing mommas hand
passing crowds eagerly longing for just a taste
swallowing their own lives in the terrific haste
passing by, not seeing, on a summer day

Momma’s attentive, loving to a fault
always in reach, that most soothing reach
the hawker cried with such force: Guess your weight!
I should have peed myself, nearly too late
on a sticky, sticky summer day

Father never caring, another mouth to feed
his cold eyes looking but never seeing
he grabbed the great mallet with eyes on the prize
looking through me as he swung, my insignificant size
and the bell rung on this lonely, lonely day

Quit lagging!  he yelled, me just a nuisance
nothing but another stupid bill to pay
must hurry on to the next great trick to amaze
but daddy, I just need to be loved these days
on this awful, sad summer day

Mother, don’t go, I need you so
you musn’t leave me alone
you’ve melted away, drop by drop, ending my wonderful dream
sticky fingers reaching for yours, colder than this dripping ice cream
on this terribly cold summer day

And so I ride this ride, round and round
music piercing, gears haunting, horses snarling
years passing by, more blurry than the spectators outside
them thinking what fun, me shouting “But they lied!”
Mother’s gone….  and I have bills to pay, on this non-day

As you have already discovered, this poem is a metaphor about the circular nature of life.   It’s not really about a summer day or a carnival, nor even a merry go round though it certainly is suggestive of all of those things.   It is about a man’s life, a love for his mother, a misunderstanding of his father, who he regretfully finds that he has turned into.  I hope that you enjoyed my little carnival ride….  Thank you for stopping by…..

The form of this poem:    It is constructed on eight stanzas of five lines each, also sometimes called quintets.  Lines three and four have a tail rhyme.  The last line of each quintet ends with the same word and repeats the theme of the poem,  in this case, very simply – a summer day.  This form has no set metre, except the poet’s eye.

Please visit the work of this wonderful photographer, Mr. Damien Franco at

© 2011 John Richter

About johnallenrichter

I am an aspiring Poet and adorer of life, a conqueror of nothing. However I am a champion curator of truth and friendship and hold both of those things most dearly to my heart. Welcome to my mind's eye. I hope you will enjoy what you may find and please know that you have a friend here. View all posts by johnallenrichter

44 responses to “Circles of the Merry Go Round

  • oceangirl

    It is a metaphor but is it true, you have taken me on the ride and now my heart aches for the little boy.

    I like the quotation on poetry.

    • johnallenrichter

      Hi Oceangirl! Not to worry…… the little boy just grew up….. He lost his mother at some point and was left alone in a cold world of hawkers and indifferent people passing by his life, not seeing. The end of the poem leaves him as an adult, working now, saddled with responsibilities, maybe even a family of his own but that is the readers ending to choose… The only point made there is that he became his father, working, no time for anything but paying bills. And of course his mother was gone by then. Life had lost its fervor. The carnival was his life, the Merry Go Round his daily grind, a lonely circle that he can’t escape. Try as he may like to, he can’t get off. As others look on and think how beautiful life is, he wants to scream and tell them no, no it is not.

      And it is true, at least the inspiration for it. When I sat down to write this poem I wanted to write about my mother, and specifically a day that she and my father took us kids to a traveling carnival in my hometown around 1964 (maybe 64, 63?). But the similarities end there, except that I have lost my parents too. And as is the case with every poem I have ever written, this one took on a life of its own and I was just a mere witness to it like you are today…… It is a sad, truly sad poem Oceangirl and I’m sorry if it left you unhappy. But I can’t apologize for it because sadness is a beautiful part of life too. Without it we wouldn’t know what happiness is. Thank you for coming to my blog and reading my poem…….. I hope that you will be able to find the beauty in it at
      some point……

      • oceangirl

        It is the little boy, the subject of the poem that touches me. Your poem is unobtrusive, gently penetrates through. Thank you John, for your kind beautiful words, here and at my site. I am learning.

  • claudia

    there was one line that gripped me esp…his cold eyes looking but never seeing…sometimes life serves us thick ice cream which smoothens our pain and takes us around the next corner and then there are that eyes that never see…uhg…good metaphor john

  • ayala

    This made me sad…a great write.

    • johnallenrichter

      Thank you ayala…. I think all emotions are beautiful when they are extreme… you know, I hate going through extreme sadness, but as a philosophy I find it beautiful…. most times when I’m sad it’s because I lost something that made me happy, or it is something like a tragedy, world hunger for example. And I lost my mother many many years ago, and it was incredibly sad but I still have her, she is very much locked away in my secret places and will be there forever. World hunger? Send what you can afford to help and you would not believe the silver lining that would bring… I love sad poetry because I think it is beautiful too….

  • Zollie

    Excellent piece! Emotional and heartwrenching. Cheers! I am so enjoying reading your work. xoxo

  • colleen

    Too soon the ride is over. It stirs my own mother issues.

    • johnallenrichter

      I know, the whole mother thing…. it’s strong and Freud was a friggin genius…… I don’t actually have them, but my first poems were certainly about my mother. That would have been 49 years ago when I started writing poetry at 3. And I’m still writing about her… I suppose that’s another merry go round we’ll never get off, huh?

  • manicddaily

    Lovely poem. I especially like the part about the crowd eager for a taste swallowing their lives. (I’m sorry not to quote it–on iPad that doesn’t go back and forth so eagerly.) But it is really lovely, nostalgic, evocative.

  • Jenne' Andrews

    You are not alone on the merry-go-round, the carousel of sorrows and years. You saw that in your over-the-top-and-into-the woods wonderfu comment on “Amphibian.” Imagine thinking of yourself is neither of land or water! You handle the form beautifully. Hope you’re well…and happy! xxxj

    • johnallenrichter

      Hi Jenne! I think over-the-top and through the woods is maybe fair, but I prefer to think that your amazing talent should indeed be praised…… And I just recently just finished your submission to this evening’s openlink night and it’s no exception, but it’s exceptional!

  • Chris G.

    Curious…the second person this week I’ve been kicking things off with a quote from John Keats. Greats minds, eh?

    Quite the journey, in this, and an interesting metaphor – a number of interesting lines, and a lot of emotion. A lovely read.

    • johnallenrichter

      Thanks Chris… Poetry form has been on my mind this week, or should I say my inability to follow it. I don’t have the amazing talent that so many others have, in that they can cram their delicious words into a form and have it come out beautiful…. Instead I prefer to let my forms fit the poems. So doubtlessly I will fall on Keats to back me up on that one….! Thanks for the kind words, I do love emotions and writing about them..

  • Arron Shilling (@ArronShilling)

    An interesting metaphor John – expansively explored – i really enjoyed every aspect of the ride

  • brian

    really great write john…yes i get the metaphor…i feel for the boy with his dad the most as i try to be an engaged father to my own…but also in many ways to the kids i counsel as well as i see what that stage can do to affect the rest of the ride…

    • johnallenrichter

      Brian that is so awesome because my own son was an inspiration for this as well as my parents…… I wasn’t as bad as the kid in the poem, but growing up I did feel my father was emotionally adrift. But then of course I grew up, a job, career, college, work work work, bills, mortgage, broken fridge, furnace quit working in February!…aaaaaaAAAAARRRRRGGGGGGGHHHH… Then i realized “Hey, Dad was dealing with this crap the whole time I was growing up.” Suddenly he didn’t seem so aloof. In fact, he was a pretty good guy! My advice: do what you can, but always let him watch you swing the mallet on the bell-ring thingy because he needs to see that, even if he doesn’t think so at the time….

  • Pat Hatt

    Round and round some seem to go always spinning their wheels as they go, the metaphor can be plainly seen and great little rhyme feel to it with the form too, I always appreciate that, wonderful write or should I say ride?

  • tashtoo

    Oh my! I think I’ve found my favorite for today! I love this tale, the way you have chosen to present it, the wonderful and compelling descriptions, the form and rhythm. What a post, Poet! I too so very much appreciate you taking the time to share your tale, from form to construction…and as for your thoughts on dVerse…isn’t it wonderful to have found all these kindred spirits, those who enjoy reading your work almost as much as creating their own! Thank you for being a part of it 🙂

    • johnallenrichter

      That is an amazing compliment! OMG thank you…. Actually I was considering ditching this poem right up til 3 o’clock today because, I don’t know, I just didn’t have the confidence in it….. Colleen above mentioned something that i think is true…. this poem needs to be a lot longer. It needs more detail,,,,, But I’m so glad that you enjoyed this tashtoo… And yes I love this dVerse society…. it is so welcoming and warm to be in the midst of others with this same great passion……. I absolutely love it…..

  • Poetical Psyche

    Excellent write. I know a lot of different forms, but I don’t believe If heard of this one prior to reading yours- that alone was worth the price of admission, will save that ticket stub for sure. What makes your metaphor work so well is the attentiveness to the Carousel, it creates a strong link from the scene at the fair, which then strengthens the metaphor- you did a really nice job here. Really glad I got to experience it all, thanks

    • johnallenrichter

      Dear Psyche, (Gosh it sounds funny to say that, like writing to an ex-girlfriend you know? “Dear Psycho…..”) LOL!

      Price of admission! That is incredibly cute and has just become my favorite saying of today….. You are so astute…. That middle stanza about the guy yelling “Guess your weight!” has absolutely nothing to do with the metaphor at all, but was only put there to draw the reader into the carnival atmosphere. You know I spent a month debating whether to keep those lines. But I came to the conclusion that they are necessary for the poem. So your compliment on that point just absolutely thrills me.

      Oh, and please don’t search your old French manuscripts and bibles for the form of this poem, nor 99 percent of the forms I use in poetry because they are mine and written specifically for the poems they are in.. Some artists are graceful and capable of cramming the most beautiful words and emotions into a prestructured form like a sestina or villanelle or pantoun. Not me. I can’t even explain my creative process. There is a little black box in the back of my mind that dictates and my pen simply writes them out. Sometimes it writes form into them… more often than not…. I normally don’t draw attention to my forms, the quote from Keats above echos my feelings exactly on that. It’s not the form of the poetry that wows the reader, it’s the subject. But because these poems here at dVerse are only being shared with other poets I thought that would be an interesting little piece of information to add. And my forms are very subtle, in fact, if I don’t point them out usually people don’t even notice them., Not even other poets. It’s true.

      This is how I feel about forms: They are fun and very challenging for the poet himself. It’s like a crossword puzzle , you know, when you are done you look back at it and say “Wow, I did that!” It’s cool, that’s a fun feeling. But the guy that sat next to you on the subway while you filled that crossword out didn’t get the joy out of it. And neither does the reader of your poetry really get the joy out of your form. He will if he is another poet of lover of literary pieces,
      but really we are not writing just for them.. Anyway, that’s my soap box for the day… I am so happy you enjoyed my poem… Thank you!!!!

  • mrsmediocrity

    great metaphorical write, the feel of the merry go round spinning was there, behind the words, this cycle of life that we all endure, the ups and downs, the joys and disappointments, the childhood, the growing old…

    • johnallenrichter

      Funny that both our poems today deal with life’s circles! And yes, everything you just mentioned was on my mind the day I wrote this poem… You have a remarkable insight, at least for detecting the things I see….. which may be a good or bad thing, I don’t know, I am far more conventional and simple than most poets I know… all of my poetry explores the ups and downs, joys and disappointments…. You just captured my whole essence ion four words. You are good lady!

  • hedgewitch

    This does have the feel of an amusement park gone off kilter–my grandfather was always the one who took me, and he had infinite patience, yet always there comes a time when either adult or child will suddenly reach saturation and just feel that awful sense of exhaustion, and isolation in a crowd, I think–and that’s only a part of the larger picture of isolation you draw for this child. Sticky, uncomfortable, but very hard to get off this ride, John. Thanks for sharing.

    • johnallenrichter

      My grandparents took me to the state fair, which was in their hometown, every year for the first 10 years of my life. Wonderful memories, and i think all of us can relate to that. I’m so happy that you came to read my poem, I really value your critique Joy…… Thank you…

  • ladynyo

    Beautiful, evocative, tender write.

    It struck me deeply, having lost my dear father, with the warm eyes….

    Takes me back to my childhood, John, when even the smallest of things were loaded with so much.

    Thank you for this beautiful memory.

    Lady Nyo

    • johnallenrichter

      Childhood is such a magical time and it fills a significant portion of our poetry, doesn’t it? I’m glad you were able to draw memories from my poem. That is my impetus. I’m sorry about your father, Lady Nyo. I empathize with you entirely. Thank you for coming to my blog and reading my carousel poem. And thank you for such kind words…. John

  • Patricia

    Thank you for your wonderful encouragement today. My songs are not “out there” for downloading anywhere… just tucked in here at my blog to share with friends. I’m so glad you liked them… =) made me smile.

    Your poem… swallowing their own lives in the terrific haste… what truth.
    You used a great metaphor to write a wonderful, sad story. And thanks for the info on the form… I always appreciate that!

  • darkangelwrites

    I envy the children who had real ice cream smiles growing up. Well penned.

  • Sarah Johnston

    such a well written piece and so sad I wonder for the little boy and look for him

  • jinksy

    And life remains a merry-go-round…

  • Jenne' Andrews

    Dearest John: are you in the U.K.? We would have such a nice time over a delicious coffee/tea. I was kidding when I called your wonderful comment over the top/into the woods– I am equally enthralled with your work and am very glad you joined us! xxxj

  • dulce

    This is an outstanding piece of great poetry, John.

    I don’t think you had to explain what it’s about. But that’s okay.

    I feel so much related to the story here. Used to feel nobody loved me, and mum was too busy doing other stuff to pay atention to my moaning. It’s hard for a child to find no consolation in the arms and soul of those who are naturally destined to love him or her. That eventually remains in your life forever, and it’s hard to get rid of- hard to have a full and satisfying life.
    But who said this was easy?

    Thank you so much for your amazing comment at my ‘place’

  • wolfsrosebud

    John, what a compassionate piece. The progression is beautiful. How the relationships hurt, but oh too real. What a final feeling on your summer day.

  • Anna Montgomery

    Yes, please let me off the sticky, dizzing, terrifying ride. I never liked amusement parks and just reading your poem gave me vertigo, well done! I admire art that is so well imbued with its meaning that it creates a corporeal response in the reader/viewer. I have a friend that’s a performance artist and she mixes smells that make her audience ill. Effective.

  • Joanne Elliott (@soulsprite)

    What happens to us in childhood seems to never leave us. The past always haunts…even more so when we felt unloved, abandoned. Nicely revealed here in your poem.

  • Kavita

    A very beautifully written wistful poem… yes, metaphorical… and so precise in expression… it made my heart bleed…
    My parents have always been super-loving… and yet, I guess there’s always this little part within us that wants to be loved (more and more)… fortunately for some of us, we have it all… but there are some not so lucky after all.. 😦 And here, I really felt for those not-so-lucky ones..

    A heartrending read… but a winner nonetheless!

  • Glynn

    I suspect this speaks to any of us. It speaks to me.

    Good poem.

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