By Livvia Faith
“You’ll nuke yourself up, boy.
Thinking you can blow off every other artiste, cast ‘em from the tightropes and trampolines and bite them with those hellhound fangs of yours – fangs we both know ain’t even your canines, but those shallow excuses you call words. Fight them over the stupidest. Darn. Things. All ‘till you think you’ve had enough. Not enough. Never enough. They trip and die. You trip and die. No one cares, for all. Falls. The Same. You give ‘em the anger, the rage, and your
fistfuls of soft-served spite.
What else do you even offer nowadays?”
So states Ringmaster amidst my last rendezvous
with a parasite yew on our current campgrounds,
a yew known only to my calloused hands
and jam-gorged throat. I choke on my words,
and a single thought flitz by: “jam” is not
my throat’s true padding. Not unless one considers
“J a m”
a beaumontague of panic
and bestrewn memories.
If that’s what it is, I know not of the delectable dessert,
or of whatever word one would use in reference
to the jar-encased substance
sold fresh on our faire grounds.
Emerald épées prod through my ivory tights
and thrust at the gaps between my feet
and toes as he offers my shoulder a firm,
and guides me from the yew
whose blood I know too well.
Vermeil sap disgraces the pure blanc
of my gloves, which I hide
from his scrutiny
as he sets free a sigh
of solitary concern.
“You know, Juggler. Go on like this and, confound it, you’ll die to us all come next year. No audience to watch you, no one there to cheer. Your heart’s a circus, your mind’s a carnival, and you? You’re a tightrope juggler with a broken bowling pin shoved down your throat.
Is that the source of your anger?
The pin Lion-Tamer broke?”
Ringmaster knew my answer.
How could he not? Tamer choked me with that pin
in the padroom, us half-in and half-out
of costume. There, with little illume, he took
his rheumy hands and unbloomed me
of my innocence. I was a flower.
Yet, by his touch, I withered
into a mangled artistic mishap.
He strangled me, straddled me,
and no one heard the tamer
with his petal-maned prey.
Not even when he pulled the petals
and shoved whatever he found
down her throat
to silence her pleas.
How could I not endorse anger?
Towards Tamer and towards myself
for letting him dictate my growth?
How could I not endorse my sorrow
towards the circus I call home?
Ringmaster frowns at my silence.
By now, he knows my thoughts too well,
so, again, he speaks:
“Well, boy, I got news for you: Lion-Tamer’s gone. It’s me, you, and everyone else against his ways. Come on and get out there. Take out the pin-head Tamer left in your throat and resurrect it with a body all your own. Tent’s up. Show’s on,
so you best step out there and act like it.”
By then, we stand before the rope
and I question how it is that between my thoughts
we arrived there. An eager crowd with fancy dresses,
suits, and fine hats shuffles into their emeraude seats
as I position myself beneath the greens,
ivories, and d’or sheafs
that conceal our art within their folds.
My toes, bare for all but the white tights,
curl around my rope.
Frays graze the linen and poke through
much like the grass beside my yew, and I
as the crowd scans our tent
for its artistes.
He offers a grin, one very in
character of Ringmaster,
and pats my back.
“Stomp on the memories, boy. Listen as our carny barks for moon-fall. Keep your head afloat, for you’re more than this rat you’ve become. Got a future ahead of you, even with our meager gates—hah, “gates”. Decay-green, withered bronze. Can’t keep out a malnourished seagull, much less a rat. Things won’t sustain a thousand:
audience, performers, children.
They won’t sustain you.”
And I think what if erosion
never touched their metal? For, as sure as he
sounds, I know the truth. Lion-Tamer,
the strong man with hands so willing to
probe consecrated grounds
that his horns should’ve earlier
forbade him from, showed me
that truth. He proved Ringmaster wrong,
as many a day,
he ‘sustained’ me,
whilst we readied ourselves for call.
He sustained with a silence
and hushed whispers
of sweet, splintered
Those nothings splintered my psyche
the same way our docks splinter my feet,
the same way my rope’s frays splinter
my toes. Children scurry ‘round the harbor
with their fine shoes,
and those in my head
ferry the grief
of my carnival-mind. They demand I run
from the fragments.
The dressing room.
The costumes and lack thereof.
They demand I run.
Board that boat,
sail those waters, and they yell
Damnit, Juggler. Get out of here.
The circus’ll drive you mad.
The audience cheers and jeers as
our carnies make the opening act.
Ringmaster, as if on cue,
pulls me into a safe embrace.
“You’re not a runner, Juggler,” he says. “Don’t listen to them, for I know you, and I know you’re more than a cowardly lioness. We both know the waters’ll madden you too, for out there, you still make friends and foes, and singing shanties with sailors and privateers? Well, that ain’t much different from fooling around with your fire-eater friends and their pipes of cutthroat words.”
He lets go,
though he keeps his hands
atop my shoulders.
“You’ll walk the plank out there,
same way you walk the rope in here.”
And with that, the man turns
and tips a tophat signature
of his style.
“Show them the light and love of divinity,
of an artiste
who ascends beyond their decay-green anamnesis and learns to thrive
in a world where earthly beings control its way.”
For the first time tonight, I speak.
“And what of the tiny voices
that keep me trapped
in Lion-Tamer’s hold?
What of the earthly epitome
that he, a man so distant
from sinless used to
beguile my very soul?”
He pauses. And, amidst that pause, he laughs.
“Can’t give up to those tiny voices, your little sailor-sirens. Go on like this, Juggler, and every day’s a doomsday. Balance the plank or the rope, and even then, if you can’t balance your heart and those dependent on its beat, you’ll fall into the pit or the ocean,
where the Atom Bomb’s locked in.”