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  • The Ringmaster, and: The Contortionist, and: The Clown, and: The Fortune-Teller, and: The Acrobat, and: The Magician, and: The Roustabout, and: The Audience
  • Alex Grant (bio)

“These poems are taken from ‘The Circus Poems,’ a recently completed chapbook-length series. I’d never deliberately set out to write poems thematically before, but the idea for the series was one of those ‘of course’ moments. Perhaps because of my lifelong fascination with the subject and the ready-made archetypal characters (as Marc Chagall said, ‘For me, a circus is a magic show that appears and disappears like a world. A circus is disturbing. It is profound.’), the germination period was much shorter than normal for me. After the usual initial beating around the bush, most of the poems came along very quickly. I had already been experimenting with the ‘blocked,’ even lineation form as section introductions in a full-length manuscript, and the form provided a framework which seemed to fit well with the notion of archetype—variations on a theme. My eventual intent is to incorporate the poems into a full-length collection. My favorite circus movie? No contest: Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932).” [End Page 27]

  • The Ringmaster
  • Alex Grant

The first ring is contained in a small box no bigger than your fingernail. We keep it on a shelf with minor planets and constellations–the beasts, people, sawdust–the random arrangement of atoms and circumstances that make up the world. I once knew a woman who believed that every moment of every life was moving inexorably toward the same vanishing point–the myriads moving on a giant canvas toward an invisible pinhole somewhere in the middle distance. The stars continue to burn. The seas pay homage to the sky. The brittle shards of days under your fingernails. [End Page 28]

  • The Contortionist
  • Alex Grant

Her body twists like snakeskin–limbs looping around limbs, her hair tangling like seaweed on pylons—the music gyrates as she lifts one leg to touch her mouth from behind her back and extends her tongue to touch her eyebrow. The audience is divided–the men clap like young sea lions at feeding time, the women and children shudder, fidget and cock their heads. [End Page 29]

  • The Clown
  • Alex Grant

Things are always collapsing. You climb the staircase of years, the steps crumbling quietly behind you. The rain falls down in gales of laughter, holding its sides. The moon disintegrates in a puddle of light. It all turns to dust eventually—the flowered wallpaper—the flapping curtains—the letters bound in tin boxes in the highest attic room—the night’s paper wings flare on morning’s noiseless flames—collapsing, always collapsing. [End Page 30]

  • The Fortune-Teller
  • Alex Grant

She looks at you the way a man with gray hair looks at the ocean. Her thin fingers caress the ball and there’s no turning back–black nails clacking crystal and the low hum of her voice, soporific and foreign, winds in your ear. You are on a very long voyage, unsure of your destination–many companions will come and go, certain places will hold you–you are moving, returning, always returning. [End Page 31]

  • The Acrobat
  • Alex Grant

At the top of the pyramid, like Pharaoh piled on a bed of slaves, she balances on three fingers—then f lips her grasshopper body and lands on the white stallion’s back as it canters past. Her body melds with the horse–its snort and rumble pulsing through her feet—tight muscles and tendons snapping—mane f lapping like white seaweed in a bridled sea of dust and plumes and memory. [End Page 32]

  • The Magician
  • Alex Grant

Stars on his fingernails, sky in his hair, breath of the sea in his voice. His father sailed west on an Ottoman clipper, journey of the Magus from Constantinople. The magician knows the world, feels its blind dominions...


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