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The Last Circus

Note: Barnam and Bailey announced today that they are closing their circus after more than one hundred years of touring and performing

I am five years old
sitting in wiggly anticipation
under the circus bigtop
Barnum and Bailey
has come to Sheridan, Wyoming

The crowd is a hot smear
of Saturday afternoon faces
The room smells of animal dung
and buttered popcorn.

I have the surprisingly intimate feeling
of being let in on a secret —
there is a world where the rules
are suspended, where people fly
and elephants walk on their hind legs
where women wear spangled
skin-tight suits and swing on swing sets
the size of tall buildings

where people are sawn in half
and then reassembled
where the polar axis shifts
and time runs in a bright circle
with a man standing on its back with a whip

Of course, I had no way of knowing
the conjuring has a cost. And like a broken
foreign correspondent, I have wandered ever since
looking for what is conjured
and what is constant

The Writhing Under the Skin

once a friend came to my house
lets lick the razor today, he said
you can be in this world but not of it
it does not matter if one poet goes missing
when we were kids he and I used to play marbles
the aggies and steelies and blue eyes
jingling in your pocket like little bubbles of money
my friend drowned one day while fishing
he drank too much and fell out of the boat
once I saw him on his bicycle in the sky
he was paper thin and had tiny window blinds
hanging around his head and ears
his teeth were cracked by lightning
there is a train in a ravine where no one goes, he said
if you go there you can hear the train’s thoughts
intertwined with mine
my friend used to say the math
that describes our days has its own symbols
that vibrate like candied light waves
but they never tell you if you should lick the razor today or not

Making Sorrows Disappear 

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” — Anne Frank 
“In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit. ” –Anne Frank

A Raindrop’s Joy

For the raindrop, joy is in entering the river

–Ghalib, eighteenth-century Urdu poet


He wasn’t prepared for the foul smell,
the oily exhaust from the open taxis,
the women washing clothes in the fetid fountains,
open city sores with sandstone steps.

Those hoards of incessant beggars,
the albino who pursued him through the market stalls,
Lucky for you, lucky for me!

He wasn’t prepared to see a child
sitting in the street with a broken arm at ninety degrees,
an old break that was never set.

He sat in the courtyard of his hotel soaking in the quiet,
sipping tea in the alyssum scented evening,
waited on by gentle men in golden kurthas.

He saw himself on a mountainside
looking down on a woman brushing her hair far below him.
The higher he went the more his dreams merged and night became day.

The woman offered herself as the Divine,
the horned tahr with its shimmering brown mantle came with an amulet for him,
the writhing bad gods danced to drums in the firelight.

Later, after the altitude and the notorious rakshi they drank from jeep fuel cans,
home came no nearer, only the mother of all headaches,
like vise grips tightened to breaking on the brain stem.

The morning brought the world back intact,
the slatted light through the hotel windows,
an angry sun that heated each crevice and hallway.

The trip though the city leveled down to the lowest places–
an indifferent royal palace, a wall of littered noise,
and then…a chorten with languid eyes looking down at a movie set,
a movie with interchangeable characters, alive, asleep, alive.