Circus: Poems 1 -- 29


I love to see the man eat fire
For I have done that too
In some borrowed costume

In its worn-out shape
And using his words too
To bring alive the fire

I love to feel her close
And feel her breathing fire.

The Merry-go-round

I am on a merry-go-round
It is going faster and faster --
My feet are off the ground

I love the painted horses
The perfume in the air
And the fairy-tale music

I can see the dancer --
It is taking me around.

The Trapeze Artist

I love to see the man swing high
In his green and gold sequins
Against the canvas-top's painted sky

I love to watch his body fall low
As it almost skips the ground
And hear his heartbeat grow

I love to see him spin -- then
Somersault onto the sawdust below.


The Knife Thrower

There stands the knife-thrower
Slowly blacking out --
So he no longer sees the balloons

But throws the knives anyway
There is sombre music around
The elephants are waiting to come on

With their tramping feet
Who will take his knives away?


The Wheel Operator

Something tells me
The crowd will be bad tonight --
No laughter in the air

No sound of coins hitting
No whispered midnight kisses
No hot-dog aroma

Even the clowns look grim
Come watch the wheel spin.

The Wheel's Gambler

And you perhaps lost
In that fortune --
You have spun an unlucky number

The black ball is on the nine --
No good ever came of that
Your chances have been taken

For better or for worse
Come spin the wheel again.


On the Tightrope

The tightrope walker
With his silver wrists balancing
The long ivory tusk pole

Takes two shaky steps
Stares into the eyes of his crowd
And plunges across the wire

His hands and feet are sure
And his will is of iron desire.


The Red Carpet

Roll out the red carpet
The Strong Man approaches --
His muscles oiled and tanned

Hear the ladies ooh and aah
As he strides around the ring
He lifts the deaf and blind boy

Above his crew-cut head --
We wait to hear the boy sing.

Fairy Floss

The Fat Woman is at it again --
She is eating all the ice-cream
And now the fairy floss is gone

There is pink around her mouth
Pink all over her dress
And sticky pink on her hands

She says she is a princess
Beneath her sail-like cape.


The Performance

Hardly a day goes by
Without the sound of the crowd
Rumbling along climbing into stands

Getting ready to watch the show
Taking out handkerchiefs
Smiling sneezing coughing a lot

When will it all end -- and how?
In fire or in snow?

1/2 and 1/2

Half-man half-woman
Which half will I show to you?
Put your money on the counter

You ask me questions
I cry and laugh from both sides
And speak in different ways

I can show you a good time too --
But first what sex are you?


Three hundred days
Throwing balls in the air
Looping them in and out

Each ball goes higher
And falls down lower
I am feeling sick

My back is sore --
I must learn some new tricks.


The Rider

The bare-back rider
With his twirling moustache
And manly perfumed chest

Circles the ring standing
Upon the back of his horse
He doffs his hat to all

The pretty ladies --
They throw him roses.


The Procession

First come the lions
Then the tigers with their keepers
Some toothless fur dusty

Then the elephants also led --
And the whip-cracking lion-tamer
In green velvet with blue stars

Sown on to the jacket's lapels --
Everything shining under the lights.


Moving On

Pull out all the stakes
Fold the tent in four --
The circus is leaving

Cage in all the animals
Let the Strong Man
Pull off his fake tattoos

Put aside your passion --
There is work to do.



Drink some wine for victory
The weekly run is through
You saw the child cry

The other scream with delight
Drink some wine for victory
While you still have lips to drink

Your eyes are bloodshot
Your hands are shaking too.


The Lion Tamer

Is your heart a lion's heart
Does it beat so true?
Are your fears, a man's fears?

Is there water on your face
Or is it wet with tears?
Your make-up's run

Your body's thin --
The taming's all been done.



You wave the magic wand
Three times -- I disappear
You bring me back

With three more waves
And yet I'm not so near
I cannot see you now

One of us is shrinking --
I don't know how.


The Grizzly Bear

Someone has to mind the grizzly bear
Someone pokes him with a stick
Someone combs his hair

Someone moves his ball and chain
Disturbs him in his lair
Someone feeds him apple-pie

Hits him if he breaks a chair --
Mighty arms thrash thin air.


Sing Songs

Sing songs to set you free
Nothing else will do it
No moaning no laughter

No foolish tears no drunkenness
No loving whores
No bribing judges

All the cages are locked --
There is no other key.


New Start

A child's been born
To the dwarf and the acrobat
Everyone is happy

The clown clicks his heels
The tumbler rolls on the mat
The jugglers do handstands

The strong man cartwheels --
Only the child is forlorn.



Who is having a secret affair?
Under the blue sickly moonlight
I saw shadows out there

Beyond the Big Top
Holding each other tight
One was trembling

One was pale --
Are we doing what is right?


The Sister

She is the sister of
Of the tight-rope walker
She has no style

She needs a safety-net
When she performs
She laughs too much

Will I tell you
I love you -- now or later?



Out of the cage --
Sing dance till you drop
And your cheeks glisten

Your red lips alive --
Soft still singing
You're warm you're breathing

You're so light --
I can lift you up.



Let me be your map
Whereby you plot your course
You've lost your way

The fortune-teller's gone
To bed -- your giddy head

You cannot see for laughter
You cannot hear at all.


Blue Sky

The elephant's dancing with
The giraffe -- the pigeon
Is necking with the dove

The clown spins the dwarf
And throws their child
Into the air with joy

No crisis no tears
Blue sky above.


The Acrobat

There is a pure moment
When my body
Is like a circle -- no holes

Healed -- Complete -- Round
I am still
No words -- no lies -- no words



The World

The world is too small
It fits on my table --
Too small by half

To hold this travelling show
Of tumbledown tacky
Clowns and jugglers

Too small for all the emotions
That overflow a heart.


Again the Sister

What will I have to do
To get her?
She has strung my heart

Out tight as a rope
What is my part
In this circus?

I have fallen for her
Where is my safety-net?

Poems 1 -- 29 | Poems 30 -- 41 | Poems 42 -- 57 |

Poems 58 -- 79 | Poems 80 -- 104 |

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