The man who runs the show
knows like a mom, what dough
an audience will let loose
and invites us, nay, seduces
us to straighten our spines
and unclasp our ties, unwind
while we start with a spectacle.
He hoists the wand in his hand
and waves a cheap Beethoven
imitation to entice and cloak
the moment, a cape to pull
over the eyes of us rubes.
And then we sit back and wait
while the performers create
the ambience, just the right
mood for our lives, our trite
easily led emotions, the house
and the simple fields we louse
around in. They must set
the swell of the story
against the mood of people
we meet, angels and devils,
each chasing the other, each
left in utter dismay.
The natives would be restless
were it not for the suits and dresses
they’ve been forced to wear, that mothers
washed for church and work, another
reason to hate occasions such
as this. But worry not, in the clutch
the ringmaster comes through again.
He takes the tie from a man
and ties it around the end
of a pole, which he sets on fire
while the fire-eater stretches
his mouth, and chows down.
The man in the center ring
talks up his tubas, trombones, singers
as if each has been carefully selected
and is perhaps a descendent direct
from Sousa, Callas or Satchmo.
Believe what you see when he says so.
If you feel somewhat cheated
when the performance fails
to match the rhetoric,
do not fret, you’ll not leave
Nothing but the highspots
Captain Fantastic. Please not
another clown. Get the lion tamer
or the bear wrestler, not a lame
backroom attraction. Keep curtain jerkers
and sideshow freaks lurking
in the back, in the back.
I want only the orgasm
to hell with seduction,
bullocks on foreplay
and being teased. Touch me
like a good capitalist.
Good to know, at least
the man with the baton, the priest
of the flock at least admits
the he is the wizard, that the skits
are nothing but a work
in progress. With a sly smirk
he admits as much to us.
The lovers on screen are not us,
but incantations of what we wish
in our best moments, we could be.
A man who adores his wife most
and sees which things are worthy.
Now we’ve tugged your heartstrings
made you fall in love, hear angels sing,
helped you forget the argument, the job
you’ve got, the bill and the kids. Robbed
you of all your headaches and fears,
we will plunge you into the river
of deep human sadness.
The wells humanity
creates for itself, a horror
well apart from what contempt
you hold for your boss
and your co-workers.
Then he brings out the classics,
an old fast car turning a quick
corner, snaking up behind the spy
who doesn’t know yet why
his breaks don’t work,
who in a instant is jerked
out of his auto and sent flying.
The bombs dropping,
the trees ablaze, the heros
gunned down and in their final
throes declaring love
for king, wife and country.
How long the threads that wind
down the track, through the blind
history of the Milky Way, descending
onto our planet, our country, pretending
to be one of the folks on our street,
into the living room to sit and meet
the parents. Watch their TV
where we’ve erected temples
to the story, to the tale,
to notes like a train
that rolls into the station
and lets off the entertainers.
What the carnies create, just for you,
has been played countless times, accrued
over a number of years, in towns
here and there, the sights and sounds
are nothing new, but rather
well rehearsed pabulum, another
Sit back, we want you to feel
as if we found each other
in the woods just down
the tracks and came together
to entertain this here hamlet.
The dance is all song
and it’s not long
before the cotton candy
gives us a belly ache. Dandy
as this all may seem, we need
Mozart for the fields, to seed
us with something we can eat.
The man with the baton
counts the bills
we’ve handed over, relieved
somehow to be rid
of our hard earned booties.
Once they’ve packed and left
with only a few scraps and cups left
trailing behind them and we must
go back to work, in our rusty
pickups and wagons, well then
we must ask, what good then
was the money we spent.
But in a life when none of this
will exist, when carnivals and hissing
snake charmers are only stories,
while people drive more and more
to amusement parks, what is lost?
We will wake when the sun says, wake
and punch a clock. We will take
lunch at the hour and be home to clean,
cook dinner, walk the dog, glean
from our loved ones a sense of the day.
At night, make love the same way
we have for generations.
The orgasms are there at times
and at times, we can forget
the trials and drudges
of our long, slow
For the whole day, we will toil
in the factory and the soil,
with the voices in our heads
of actors on stage, what they said
in that perfect moment we too often
let slip by, never to see again.
The trumpets and strings,
the long slow violins
and yes, even the percussion
make us walk home
a little straighter.
With the tenderness of a kiss
we look at our spouses
and our houses, and children.
How could one lament
a life like this.