le Cirque

This poem won Second place in 2-Day Poem Contest 2016

In the dream I have head lice—

the only girl in the troupe thus disordered,

diseased. I share a soft room


covered in mattresses. No one minds

my black hair, animate with corpse white bugs

I pick off one by one and squash


between fingernails. I sleep late,

tasting the bitter and salt of other dreams,

now forgotten in the emerald morning.


If the Sami have three hundreds words for snow,

we in the Pacific Northwest need at least that many

for the greens of April. From my aerie where I write,


I look out on the fervent circus below, the hinky

meeting the crazy in a pas de deux of paranoia

and loneliness. They stand on the corner


beneath the newly shattered greens of the birch

and wave their arms in the air, shouting at fortune.

We watch them all day long, have bestowed names


on the regulars, The Dude, Bearded Lady,

and Yellow Hat.  Our stars and luck delivered us here,

no deserving, no particular worth. The last time


I rode the bus downtown I sat behind her,

a fairy-tale woman, sun-leathered face a prune,

lips smacking as though remembering


or looking forward to some delicacy.

Thin white hair hung in curtains and now and then,

when the bus turned a corner or jarred in a sudden


stop, parted to reveal a thing on her neck,

a furuncle the size of a small orange, just another

silent amazement in a constantly becoming world.