The Circus All sorts of torturers, dictators, fanatics and demagogues struggling for power ... also enjoy their jobs, and they too perform their duties with inventive fervour
— Wislawa Szymborska
Between work and chores or over a drink an exhaled half-wish — and one day it’s here, just like that — quicksilver as gossip, townsfolk gathering on kerbs, barely able to wait for evening to shrug on their best and troop to the circus.
How they adore the acrobats — the way they pretzel bodies in invisible mirrors, trapezists missing a fall by a slick hand-hold — and shiver at their hummingbird hover in the panther-dark high, the wire,
a marvellous exposé. What stills all in their tracks are chained lies pawing the ground or pressing against bars in cages. Ringside, the Pomeranian wears a candy pink tutu; he makes them snigger when he jumps and jumps through candy pink hoops and for once in their lives aren’t struck dumb by an elephant in the room. A man with his soul on stilts hedges around the bright eyes of spotlights. All evening it grows, until he loses his head in the dark cone of the roof. When Jack-in-a-box pounces from every empty seat, they can’t help clapping or roaring at their own fear. All who’d like a little more power, go there keeping voices secret, and the ventriloquist’s is their favourite act. Grass turns to straw beneath tents. There’s no sign of the circus leaving. Bored of the same old tricks, after the same old chores, tired even of Jack, they put off the jaunt or forget altogether — the way one forgets the possession of mouths and ears. This goes on for years and children who run away from the circus are sometimes found miles off, mimicking ways they left behind, and now and then, over a drink someone will half-wish for anything to give — how marvellous to have a circus come into town.