Circus Fire

by , under Poetry

Wednesday, July 5th 1944

The kids were out windows
shimmied down drainspouts
hurled down alleyways

since today was the day
the circus train rolled into town.

No music played
– war trains caused delays

but no war talk today, boys. No time
because look at that we’re late.
Late is unlucky and it’s all good news these days anyway.

The profession demands professionals
The circus parade always rolls
from railyard into town.

A real bully circus

with only a few of the town’s old hens
talking sideways about young circus men
who weren’t strewn limbless on the beaches
but instead juggled bright red pins
as they marched in clown suits
to bully circus music

Thursday July 6th 1944

The Flying Wallendas
had the crowd on the edge of their seats.

When the band played Stars and Stripes Forever.
circus people knew it meant danger, panic
looked around, and soon spotted the licks

of fire racing up the big top
canvas waxed with two tons of paraffin,
a rain of flaming teardrops

bombing the crowd, burning them alive
making them run ablaze through the sawdust
screaming horror, setting all alight
as the fire raced up the greased walls,
roaring as the gaily striped tent
collapsed on them, pressed them to coals

Photographers on their soft stateside duty
snapped clowns with firebuckets
as the big top cindered down in just eight minutes
the ashy dead a harbinger

of cities yet to burn

Don't just stand there.