September 13, 2017

Six Poems by Todd Outcalt: "The Human Cannonball," "The Ringmaster," "The Bearded Lady," "The Strong Man" "The Geek," and "The Trapeze Artists"

Todd Outcalt lives in Brownsburg and is the author of over thirty-five books in six languages. His  recent titles include "All About Martin Luther King, Jr.," and "The Seven Deadly Virtues." These poems will be included in an upcoming book entitled "Circus."

"Circus Horse" Marc Chagall

The Human Cannonball

Every day he reminds himself that life is an illusion:
That humans do not really fly
And that the powder keg he sits upon
Is smoke and mirrors and that he will not die.

“What does not kill you only makes you stronger”
Some will say.
But he is weak of heart and his fortitude no longer
Guides his way.

Yet still he must not falter nor show remorse
In his deepest fear:
That, should he fail to launch, in course of time
He would simply disappear.

The Ringmaster

He had always yearned for the greatest show:
The ticket sales, the adoring crowd,
The cheers rising up, long and loud
At the end of each act, and the undertow

Of adulation that would lash
Him onto fame and fortune where
He would get the riding girl
And would fall headlong into cash.

But every week a different town
Would rouse him to the daily grind,
Reminding him of loves he’d left behind,
His feet ringed to a familiar ground.

And with the leaving of each track
He forfeited another dream
Until his future was a distant gleam
On the horizon at his back.

The Bearded Lady

Men came from miles around to leer
At her spectacle of hair:
The sideburns trimmed, the moustache curled,
And chin whiskers more alluring than any world
Of sex they could imagine in their wildest dreams.

For hours she would lie enthroned
On her luxurious bed, broad-boned
And smiling at men’s shadows as they passed.
Inside her canvas palace she was queen
And all the men her willing subjects
Who, though shaved in their disgrace,
Could not obtain the treasure behind glass,
Nor comprehend what it could mean
To make a life so lonely from one face.

The Strong Man

A student of physics, he understood the gravity of weight—
The mass, the use of force. His body was a lever
Balanced on the platform of his non-skid shoes.
The bells he hoisted were blunt objects of his hate
Directed at the weaker minds which were not clever
Enough to build the muscle of his god-like Zeus.

But concentration was required to lift enormous stone,
Or drums, or press a human body overhead,
Or add another hundred to the black iron stack.
He chalked his hands and screamed in baritone
With each exerted breath, his face beet-red,
When he, like Atlas, placed the world upon his back.

The Geek

There was a time when he was star attraction:
Gnawing beaks off chickens,
Biting heads off bats,
Nibbling goat livers,
Consuming cats.
But that was before the world—
Consumed by gore—
Was shocked by blood
(Not anymore).

Now unemployed, he ages slowly,
Preserved by pills,
By exercise,
And by a healthy diet
Which has hastened his demise.

The young no longer find him interesting,
As he is commonplace.
They don’t react
To blood and guts as generations did
Before he became an artifact.

And since the world has slipped toward death,
He has no power anymore to shock
Their sensibilities, to break taboos,
As everyone has seen his act
And lived it through the daily news.

The Trapeze Artists

They had met on a lonely frontier
Determined to join the show—
Then fell in love with atmosphere
And the cheers of the crowd below.

Their marriage was balanced upside-down
Like ankles wrapped to steel,
Their romance softened by the sound
Of drum and glockenspiel.

But when their love died they were cursed,
Confused in one spin or another,
Wondering who would reach out first
To save the life of the other.

© Todd Outcalt

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