Sylvia Cavanaugh

Wheel of Fortune
Spring Green, Wisconsin

Hundreds of antique dolls placed in cases
at the House on the Rock
look really nervous
once handed to girls
their worried eyes and unsmiling lips
whisper of impending invisibility

at least in this one small place
they’ve allowed a few of the dolls to stand sentry
on this diminutive carousel
nested high in a shadowed nook

and men have their own problems
here at the House on the Rock
the cavernous organ room with massive
musical instruments
organs, whose open jaws
curve inward in lost echo of opulent sound,
their keys like parallel rows of blunt teeth
while iron bells take their toll
from high among the rafters

there are darker hollows, too
out of which gleam massive copper vats
in leftover sigh of industrial decline
oversized beer steins, ever empty
lined up on ledges
along careening walkways

freedom of speech is finished
in broken typewriters
piled up in a dusty corner
way beyond any word
that could be stuttered out on these keys

the slow spin of the gilded doll carousel
like a phantasmagoric wheel of fortune
with decorated horses and mermaid creatures
offers hope, after all
that maybe the Buddha had it wrong
about attachment
helps us to believe these few dolls
who ride tall
who proclaim salvation in the bling of things
as if they held one small hand on hip
the other cast to the stars


Sylvia Cavanaugh has an M.S. in Urban Planning from the University of Wisconsin, and currently teaches high school African and Asian cultural studies. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her poems have appeared in numerous publications. She is a contributing editor for Verse-Virtual: An Online Community Journal of Poetry. Her chapbook, Staring Through My Eyes, was published in 2016.