Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

Circus, a poem


The Big Top is like a hot air balloon
that has landed in the snow.

Inside, we’re flooded with red light
in the bloody glow of carnival.

There are no animals here –
no scent of horses or elephants
no cruel incongruities of
syncronised species –

But I still see them, as I wait –
Straight off the pages
of “Mr Galliano’s Circus”
Into my ring:

…Lotta rides the horses,
Sure footed on their backs.
Jimmy trains Lucky the dog
To spell her own name
By rubbing meat on the letters,
And the monkey lies inert
In the tiger’s cage…

But here, it’s a human show:
gymnastic slapstick
builds fun towards spectacle.

Wonder at skill and elegance
in a moment is
fear
at what one slip would mean:

A young girl suspends herself
from the heights of the tent,
by an ankle.

They spin, turn and jump:
neatly for awe or
badly for comedy or
at height for drama and
in numbers and costume for spectacle.

We eat our own contraband Jelly Babies
And ration our smuggled water,
And wonder what their lives are like
When we all go home –

To where all this is what is on the TV
Rather than real life, three times a day

For crowds of people who
give a sudden laugh
a gasp of wonder
or wince with sudden horror

at the thought of a broken body
that at any time
is just an inch away.

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