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–