Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2023  Vol. 21  No.3
an online journal of literature and the arts
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The Circus

He wasn’t an artist
of the trapeze

he was the catcher
hanging upside down

in the Illinois breeze
all one long summer

in the first months
of his freedom

swinging up above
the raggedy crowds

humming to himself
as the flying beautiful

knots of women
tumbled toward him

like punches in midair.
His long arms, out-

stretched, comforted
the ladies rolling

in the sky. He wore
the red and white

striped tights. He was
clean-shaven smooth

as a seal. In the caravan
of wagons he slept

in the last—next to
a book of English law,

a fiddle he was given
and never played and

the sister of the fire-
eater whose name was

something hidden and
far away. At night

rolling softly over him
she called him something

in Chinese that sounded
like what a cardinal

calls her mate falling
softly through the trees.

Aug. 1831

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