The Tightrope Walker

by gm

Patrick Warner


The bearded grind-organ lady’s
Quaker-bearded monkey,
depressed elephants,
sedated lions, insouciant
ungulate dromedaries
and belligerent camels
will tomorrow be ushered
into confinement.

With these will go
the washing-machine-cum-
bisected-jet-engine that spins,
that basin of sticky wisps,
spun stratosphere that collects
on a dipped stick to make
edible pink insulation.

Stacked like ark runners will be
parenthetical sections
of the two-ring circus,
and with them the big top’s
bamboo poles a small boy
named Hal imagined were
fishing rods for whales.

His neck stiff from looking up,
his eyes so long fixed
on the glittering funambulist
he imagines he is up there
with her seeing what she sees
when she looks down:
eyes all gelatin and night,
like frogspawn in a ditch;
workweek complexions, a
shade of pale past exhaustion,
expressions as volatile
as empty petrol cans.

His stomach fills with butterflies;
butterscotch coloured they waft
and flutter as Ms Muffet makes
her way on bony
sheep-faced slippered feet
across the braided wire
from tuffet to tuffet.

Later he will not be able to say
when he got carried away
or why he hid in a wicker hamper,
under baguette-sized lace-up
bulb-toed shoes, itchy neon-coloured
nylon wigs and red ball noses,
on a bed of oily hawsers,
pegs with hangnail heads,
mauls all dents and nicks.

Tomorrow the pigeon-chested
lion tamer and the tightrope
walker will pick out his cry
from the cries of macaws,
the shrieks of parakeets,
from the ratcheting calls of toucans,
and drop him in the next town,
entrust him to the perfumed,
fire-breathing policeman.