The Last Circus


The big top tent is taken down,
folded up, put away forever.

The sword-swallower’s throat is out of work.
The contortionist discovers
he can’t earn a dime when untangled.
The high-wire walker risked death nightly.
Now, no longer in peril, to her
life is all death.
The fire-brigade’s not hiring guys
who eat the stuff
And the lion tamer is reduced to making
his tabby cat see sense.

The audience is scattered,
no longer to be healed by laughter
or awed by the trapeze.
They retreat to their domains,
not their childhood.
No one stands pirouettes
atop the pure white horse for them.
Nobody in top hat cracks the whip.
No one showers the faces
with a bucket of feathers.
There isn’t a soul
whose ten times stronger then themselves.
And knives are now for cutting meat,
not throwing.

It’s all over for corn-dogs.
Cotton candy is permanently licked from fingers.
The elephant has become
the largest invisible land mammal.
Politics, family, relationships –
they step into the big top vacuum.
The word ”circus” now means
everything but the circus.


Top of circus tent with dark clouds in background.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Front Range Review, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Naugatuck River Review, Abyss and Apex and Midwest Quarterly.
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