Why I Won’t Run Away to Join the Circus

by N.J. Hynes

I don’t want a strong man’s thighs, a lizard woman’s skin;
I’ve seen hardened jugglers’ eyes start crossing as they spin.

I turn away when aerialists fly past at blinding speed;
I’d rather knit for anarchists than see girls swing lock-kneed.

I won’t join nine acrobats in a human pyramid;
I’d sooner pickaxe ziggurats than somersault amid

clowns in rubber underpants spotlit for all to see –
that takes a kind of doomed romance or barmy bravery.

See the dancing brown bear man inside the small prefab?
When young he had a doughnut van and sky blue minicab

that he’d park on circus nights to kiss me, hot and sweet,
closing both his caramel eyes, our legs across the seat.

Now he tends six omnivores who guzzle alpine honey,
snap and roar, gnaw the doors; he drinks up all his money.

I won’t hang a hundred feet up suspended by my chin,
trembling as my legs seize up – that’s how mistakes begin,

how you end up with your head inside a lion’s mouth,
noticing its gums are red, its canines pointing south.

Closing brightly painted eyes, saliva on your face,
you may dream a thousand lives that don’t end at this place.

But when he bites you, quick and proud, you will hear the roar –
first the trainer, then the crowd, then lion back for more.