A dozen paper windmills spin in winter,
jabbed into the dry ground, untouched
by the snowfall hanging heavy on the tent.
In faded blues and golds, the circus rises alone.
Between the white cloth walls, children run
and I follow. Our portraits hang in the folds,
Victorian and dead-eyed. Perhaps
we have already died, Simon says. Perhaps
this is heaven. I have been good for so long.
Our guardian calls us to dinner;
tables of fruit, all shriveled into
identical raisins. The circus eats
with us, the lady spilling fruit
into her beard, the man with two heads
consuming the most. I hunger.
Our guardian calls us to bed
with instructions that none may enter
or interrupt his study. We sleep
in triple bunks, threadbare sheets.
The younger children weep with cold.
Simon hands them stolen fruit.
I wake to the beds beneath me
empty. We do not ask questions.
Our guardian brings us new fur coats
and allows me to wipe the floor of his study
of blood. A stuffed crocodile head
judges from the wall. Good girl,
he says. His teeth are black.
He pins me to the wall as the world
unfolds. The clock chimes ten– time
to pack. The white tent, dismantled, falls
like a costume ghost. A scream,
my voice muffled into the tent folds.
There is a piano in the next room
its red-stained wood unmarked
by winter. It sings the somnolence
of snow. A great hole gapes
within the earth, swallowing
circus, children, crocodile.
There is nothing here but music
the red piano, and me
suspended among the pinwheels
which have finally ceased–