"Flea Circus"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Nov. 8 2011 7:10 AM

"Flea Circus"

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Tomás Q. Morin read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

When civilization ended a few rejoiced
    because it meant losing
the horror of butchering
    the last animal for the last
supper of meat. The next time
    everything collapsed,

I joined the circus and slept on straw,
    read Tolstoy
to the snoring zebras, lectured them
    on the holiness
of the haunch, on the hideousness
    of tears. Tonight,

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I am the star grinning in the center
    of the ring, waiting
for the gasp of the first housewife
    to see the well-groomed
mat of hair on my back
    that will remind her

of the dogs she loved, the ones
    she could no longer feed
or bring herself to eat. The lights dim
    and I wait on all fours
for the music to cue the girl in sequins
    whose job is to pour

along my back the bucket of gymnasts
    and high-wire acts
to make me dance and join the chorus
    with my baritone
until the crowd rises to its feet and laughs
    the stale, heartsick night away.

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