The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by Sandra Beasley

        Circus slang: used to parody actual animal acts in the show.

Real giraffes cost too much.  One body, two heads: clown
clasped behind a clown, gowned in fake spots, shoe hooves.

Now look here, says the photographer.
Daddy wraps his arm around Mama's
gold-belt waist.

The trainer leads them round the ring, bobbing
and mocking through a mouthful of felt bamboo.

Stop swinging your feet, and I do.
Smile. We do: an armored march of teeth.
Like that, on her shoulder.

For a grand finale, they disembowel the beast before our eyes:
birth of white greasepaint, red grins.

Spit sequins each corner of my mouth.
--click--Perfect.  All hand drop.
You can go.

We slip off our seats, into our careful coats.

Jal: Romani for "to come"
Jal: Romani for "to go"

Calliope grabs ground beneath my feet:
ears to panting dirt, tapping toes to sky.
Clown tightens the skeleton, calls her Sweet.

She is twitched with leather where their wrists meet,
propped on sticks.   Bones ordered to dance, not die.
Calliope lifts ground beneath her feet,

minor chords of hay, but Clown drives down beats,
flares her pelvic grin by twisting his thigh.
Clown tightens the skeleton, calls her Sweet.

I pace through handstands, watching ankle meat
flirt. Marks.  My job is to meet no one's eye.
Calliope, scabs, stars beneath my feet,

sugar-popped corn.   What more to be complete?
No one to ask my name or make me lie.
Clown tightens the skeleton, calls her Sweet.

Organ swells.  Paid by the week.  My palms heat,
sweat, bleed, but who's looking? No one.  Pipes sigh.
Calliope grabs ground beneath my feet.
Clown tightens the skeleton.   Oh my Sweet.

Charivari: 1. Serenade for newlyweds;
2. Sounds played at a clown's entrance.

They beat my welcome on tin bedpans:
Meet your bride Shivaree.  Thin as a bone,
wiry and pale.  With this ring, I thee wed.
Your skeleton waltzes, jigs for the rubes--

Meet my wife Shivaree, bundle of bones.
You shadow my all, I shiver your smile.
We skeleton waltz, we jig for the rubes.
You sleep when I sleep, you wake when I wake,

you shadow my all.   I shiver. You smile.
I hang up my act each night before bed.
You sleep when I sleep, wake when I wake,
bake bread from dust, serve your marrow as jam.

My wife, I hang you tonight before bed
on two baling hooks, an altar of oak.
Bread baked dust dry, jam spoilt rich as marrow:
the midway dowry with a side of gin.

Two baling hooks.   On an altar of oak
I pray that they’ll need a new big top man.
The midway is dour.  Inside, the crowds grin:
Hospital tubing played like a tuba.

Let's pray that they’ll need me, your big top man.
As I rub my brow, you rub at my brow.
They play tuba from hospital tubing;
I play husband to a holiest of holes.

As I rub at your breast, you rub your breast.
You beat my welcome to a panting bed.
I play husband to your holiest of holes,
impaled with wire.  In this ring, I thee wed.

Apfel: a fall staged as finale.
From the German, "apple."

Polite applause for
the typewriter bit
on tiptoe, tightrope.
Auguste clowns ape those
same inches across
the clothesline below--
they clap just as loud.
Make us gasp, they beg,
make us drop popcorn.
So we flail, tumble,
reaching for their want:
we know the safety
is rigged, firecrackers
within each eased loop.
They lean, blink, lean, wait
--confetti bursting--
I was there you know
the night it happened
--bodies unbreaking--
they recline. They laugh
in sweet relief, fear
someone might suspect
their thirst for our fall.
Our flesh crisp, ruthless,
fermenting to wine
in their mortal mouths.

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