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"Carnival Goldfish Boy" by Maria Masington Winner of the Dover Poetry Weekend's Ekphrastic Contest

Carnival Goldfish Boy

after Every Beginning by N. Taylor Collins

We had the requisite pet parade,

gerbils, hamsters, hermit crabs,

moving from shell to shell,

their naked forms, pale mutant

spiders, like my son, searching to fit in.

I wanted a carnival goldfish boy,

that lives longer and stronger

than anyone could have imagined

despite the odds, content to swim

in the little bowl, not the outlier

always trying to contort himself

into normal people’s emotional ponds.

I was unprepared for a toddler correcting

my observation that the “fluffy” cloud,

was actually cumulus,

who read A Wrinkle in Time

in kindergarten and could do algebra

before he could ride a bike.

My dream boy, a solid bulky form,

a gold crown crooked on his frog head,

strong legs to spring and splash.

The real one hides in deep water,

an overgrown polliwog, squirming

in mud, like a rock with a tail.

My daily prayer the same

since I bought him a zoo in a box,

a vintage menagerie of animal crackers

in a cardboard circus car with a string handle.

Unused to things not electronic,

or neon or dinosaur shaped,

he stared at me blankly and asked,

What am I supposed to do with this?”

I look down at him, then up to the heavens,

and asked the exact same thing.


When I first saw N. Taylor Collins’ mixed media piece Every Beginning, the A B C made me consider the stuff of childhood and the colored lines the twisting path of parenting. Before we had even exchanged words reflects a mother speaking to her unborn child.  Carnival Goldfish Boy shows the expectations of our children versus the people they become.  The puzzle pieces and sheet music symbolize a  journey, wishing for an average child and getting extraordinary, the love and challenges of the unexpected.


Maria Masington is a poet and author from Wilmington, Delaware. Her poetry has appeared in over a dozen publications including The Broadkill Review, Adanna, The News Journal, and Earth’s Daughters. She has five short stories published in anthologies through Smart Rhino Publications and Cat & Mouse Press.

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