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Circus Folk

All along,
I felt the tiger stripes.
I picked at them like scabs,
one layer on top of another.

He let the others
claw and tooth,
hammer me to the floor,
beyond cuffs
beyond ropes and gags,
chains and rings.

A circus thing I am.
I lift my head,
see my ringmaster
and I hear his call,
a warm coo to the crowd.

I try to shake my head fast
whip my curls like braided twine,
roping for cattle.

I try to hide
behind the elephant
massaging his wrinkles like dough,
flour his whole.

Papi, papi
I whisper softly in his ear.
I can hide under his belly,
watching his odiferous pendulum swing.

I see three ring.
I am three ring.

Your mustache tickles all the wrong places.
Your lions protect all the wrong cubs.

The lions are snaring their teeth
snap traps, bleeding gums,
biting whips while
the elephants are hollowed,
deviled, creamed into a rousing
large family.

But you, ringmaster,
I fall to your black boot
licking the dirt off leather.
It tastes like tar and shit.

There is my ring of fire.
I jump through
and through
and through
for you.
Only for you.

Go get your elephant goad.
I’ll wait for the bull hook.
I won’t fear the lash
and the gnash
and the gnawing
of leather and bronze in my skin.

Scar me out another one.
I am the regression,
the sage of no one in this lifeless tent.

Abbie Copeland has a B.A. in English from Kean University. Her work has been published in Foliate Oak, Off the Coast, Bacopa Review, Vestal Review, and River Poets Journal.

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