You might find this a bit presumptuous
but within moments of our first meeting,
I knew we’d become estranged.
Oh, it’s not that I didn’t like you.
No, there was not a single pre-existing bias
for what were we if not the
most complete of strangers?
we were one and insane if
only for a moment.
Yes, I’d like to say I liked you
but unlike you, I unfurled a
fence of indifference.
Abandoning our uncommon ground,
I left it for you to raise the circus tent
which made up your mind.
Lions and tigers and bears… oh my!
Presently, another arrives
upon our shared street corner
to set up his own circus tent.
And his lions are more ferocious;
his tigers more terrifying;
his bears more unbearable.
Yo, and his circus comes complete with carnival.
And he’s smokin’ a cigarette, which is
almost as good as being a fire-eater.
Lucky Strikes in a rolled up sleeve.
“Step up. Step up.
You look pretty tough.
Let’s see if you can ring that bell.
Close but no cigar.”
No cigar. That’s you.
Oh so you.
“Um… Excuse me bud
but could I um…
bum a cigarette?”
Dude is smokin’ and you ain’t
and somehow you figure you have just
got to get a little of what makes him
“the Big Top”.
So he throws you a fag
and it would be a pretty good trick
if you caught it mid-air
but you don’t ‘cause your circus is
sawdust and peanuts.
He knows it, and I know it.
And here with a crack of the whip,
some lion roars from your center ring
while we in the bleachers yawn in mass
as yet another painted clown
spills forth from a miniature car.
Here on this particular curb
there’s many a big top that
will roll up with it’s own unique
Each one his own Ringling Brothers.
Each one his own Barnum and Bailey.
Each man insisting that his tent pole
is that much thicker, and taller,
and more rigid than the others.
Each one thinking his stay power
will outlast that of all his contenders.
Each one singing the praise
of those special acts that
grace his center ring being.
You would think it would be hard
to set up tent on this urban concrete curb,
yet you’d be amazed at the ease
at which so many do.
This scrolling concrete beneath our feet…
This concrete that we share…
The same concrete
that stretches away
down to the men’s shelter,
some three or four blocks distant.
That place where Saint Francis of Assisi
pitches his tent and religion.
And again, this is a bit
presumptuous of me
but I get the feeling
you know that place
all too well.
giving your best impression as to
how a true Big Top smokes a cigarette,
I notice that there’s a prominent
indentation in your skull which
begins at your right temple
and wraps around to forehead.
This, the spot where the
lions crawled into your head,
or the portal from which they roar to escape.
And here with a flick of ash to the ground,
the beasts step to your brow
and bring words to your nicotine lips.
“I can kick six feet high.
They don’t know that.
They think I’m a pussy but
I’m not a pussy.
I can lift one thousand pounds, I can.
I could punch you in your heart.
Punch you in your heart…
Looks like we’ve got a violent one here.”
I suppose you’re only trying to warn me.
Imminent threat duly noted.
Ticket sales plummet, and you
wonder why your circus patronage
is so limited?
And as we part our ways,
my mind travels to that distant building
where you will pitch your tent tonight.
To all those men and all those beds.
Chock o’ block tents of testosterone,
each with its own circus calliope.
That every man there
lives with elephant trunks
full of memories
which try as he may,
he will never forget.
That every man remembers
some girl in glittering sequins,
who swung from bar to bar,
but never chose to take his hand.
That she would rather risk the fall
than fall in love with him.
This man who painted tears across his cheek,
and made a target of his nose.
Who crawled inside a darkened box
and was skewered by
one hundred piercing swords.
Who placed his head in the lion’s mouth
and welcomed the scars it left.
All circus acts these men chose
to inflict upon themselves.
And there with the fall of night,
each marquee dims,
flaps are drawn,
costumes are hung,
lions, tigers and bears are
ushered to their respective cages
and the circus goes to sleep.
And there in that slumber,
you would think these men
would be given a token respite,
yet through the night,
they are jolted awake by
the random roar
of some beast in tortured pain.
Sawdust and peanuts.
Such is the life of men
who as boys once dreamt of
running away to join the circus.
Men who arrived at
their coveted destination
only to find that
they now only dream of
finding a way back home.
©2010 Jack Hubbell