I am five years old, sitting in wiggly anticipation
under the circus bigtop. Barnum and Bailey
has come to Sheridan, Wyoming.
The crowd is a hot smear of Saturday afternoon faces.
The room smells of animal dung and buttered popcorn.
I have the surprisingly intimate feeling of being
let in on a secret — there is a world where the rules
are suspended and even run backwards,
where people fly and elephants walk on their hind legs,
where women wear spangled, skin-tight suits
and swing on swing sets the size of tall buildings,
where people are sawn in half and then reassembled,
where the polar axis shifts and time runs in a bright
circle with a man standing on its back with a whip.
Of course, I have no way of knowing the conjuring
has a cost. And like a broken foreign correspondent,
I have wandered ever since looking for what is conjured
and what is constant.
Last week, a man in Estacada Oregon cut off his mother’s head
and took it to a convenience store. There among the growlers
and Monster Tea and paste food and rows of cigarettes,
he tried to begin the second act of his show
but fell before he could bring more of it before the world.
Today, the last Barnum and Bailey circus show took place.
After 146 years, the medieval review and spangled
swirling together of what can and cannot be done has closed.
It is is being replaced by the grim theater of small, lonely, suicidal men in Oregon and the U.K. and France.
This time the roles are reversed.
The actors bring forth into the world
what is rarely seen, but is all too real
and we — all together now —
will conjure to make it disappear.