Ode to the Loop-de-Loop

We’ve always had a strange
relationship, you and I.
You’re a peculiar sort of sight,

how you look like the distorted
spine of an Apatosaurus.
A brilliant contortion

of steel and physics.
I’m not gonna lie, though.
You scare the shit out of me.

How you manufacture inertia
and sell it to the highest bidder.
How you simultaneously exist

as a masquerade of false gravity
and a centrifuge of boundless euphoria.
This was all more manageable

when you came in the form of
my Hot Wheels play set.
Somewhere I can preside

over your twists and turns,
govern the kinetic energy
between my hands.

But I see how you create a certain sort
of ecstasy. It’s why people run to see
the photograph of their faces after

getting off the ride, to be reminded
that this sort of exhilaration is possible.
Tell me, at what velocity does joy travel?

Does it need a harness?
Or merely the right degree of force
to disentangle the fear from the rapture?

Clint Smith is from New Orleans, Louisiana and is currently a doctoral candidate at Harvard University. He is a 2014 National Poetry Slam champion and was a speaker at the 2015 TED Conference. He loves double stuffed Oreos and The New Yorker cartoon caption contest.