Leaving Town on a Circus Train

Any closet novelists, short story writers, script-writers or prose poets out there?
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RCJames
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Leaving Town on a Circus Train

Post by RCJames » Sun May 01, 2016 7:20 pm

I left on a circus train, straightaway out of town.
Lorenzo, the leader of the chimpanzees,
in the seat right next to me, was clapping
to his overly expressive grunts and screeches.
He beat on a prop box in our opening
conversation when I showed up on the scene.
I thought I got his meaning and nodded mm-hmm’s
in the spaces when he looked at me quizzically
for some kind of confirmation.

Tall grass grew in the middle
of the street, all the stores were closed.
The day I arrived suspicion reigned.
I had to explain I wasn’t policía
or a visiting abogado, I was only lost,
figuratively, I was looking for the way;
the proper authorities didn’t understand

It took one night at Contessa Maria’s
to find myself. They were good to me,
those dusty angels of reléase;
almost too good, narrowly, as I remember.
I wasn’t there to sin beyond my means,
I just wanted to look at the countryside
from a fourth floor hotel window.

My best poems started with elbows
perched on a sill, mama called me a dreamer
and that’s not all she said; she said papa
is never gonna like it, he works hard,
never read a poem in his life, he’d read one
if the ball scores for the night before
were included.

There were only two floors in the Wanderlust Hotel.
My muse liked heights, she didn’t come around.
In the middle of a gunfight just below, I realized
there wasn’t any future in the printed word,
the showdown was the lowdown way to go,
looking at the past for reminders, the future
for a road through speculation, all a fantasy.

Gun packed with fury faces gun with a better aim,
I needed a way to improve my shot dead center.
I started the exercises with a bottle of house liquor
and watched the girls overcome any pretense
as to how the pesos rolled their way in doubles.


Into my cups beyond midnight a tall man
with a top hat and a waxy, pointed mustache,
walked in, he was looking for good strong men
to pitch his circus tents that next day.
Two meals, plenty of wáter during the labor
and cash for pay at the completion of the task.

I thought a minute and not a minute more,
this’ll get me out of town to a new somewhere.
I’ll be living in the moment like I never have before.

At the circus grounds chaos was in mid-flight,
smoke was rising at the rear of the tráiler lot,
the regular circus hands were sitting in a circle
passing a jug of hooch around; the circus master
gesticulated in the middle of the circle, all I heard
from him was: “get gone…got an hour…you misfit shits.

A tall guy, maybe 6’5” didn’t look disturbed, he idled
over to our group of new recruits, motley at best,
and yelled:

“Where the hell do y’all think you are,
grab a hammer an’ head for the canvas on the ground
over there, whoever don’t get a hammer carry stakes
an’ poles to where they belong, an’ if you don’t know
where that is, don’ ask me. We got 24 hours to set-up,
time’s a wastin.’ You with the glasses and the city haircut,
follow me.”

He set me up at a desk next to the Fat Lady’s flat bed truck.
It was lined with cushions and purple was the theme.
The tall guy, Boris, said:

“I know you read, but I ain’t sure about the writin’ part of it.
You’re the new numbers man, you keep track of the pesos
and see to the payroll, that’s your job.”

“Can I look at last month’s figures, I should be able to figure it out
from there.”

“Nah, the last cruncher took ‘em all, along with last week’s payroll.
He left with some rich bitch from Sacramento; we’re startin’ from scratch,
you gotta get the names of the sorry crew Don Fabricante hired.”

And Boris headed out the door of the imitation Airstream rig.

I found a blank ledger book and was swallowed by the circus grounds,
amid shouts, curses, and other varieties of language mayhem,
I managed to get everybody’s name and the job they couldn’t do.

After many complications, manipulations, and the ever present
bad luck strokes and mis-aimed mallet blows, it looked like a circus
is supposed to look, a tented display of the oddities , not only animal,
but eccentricities of the human kind. Boris sat opposite me
at the rudimentary supper, he asked me, since Don Fabricante
had asked him, if I could stay on until another bean counter appeared.
It was then, that very split second, full moment, I saw Evangelina
for the first time. You know what happens sometimes at first sight,
well, it happened then; I turned to Boris with a level cadence,

“Of course, of course, I’d be happy to,”

“You’ll sleep in the blue tent, next to the chimpanzees, hell to pay
when they’re awake, but they settle down at night, they gotta sleep too.
We open tomorrow, you find Mario and work with him keeping the cash
counted and safe in hand.”

I was awake all night trying to render the perfect resemblance of the face
I’d seen for only a flash, it was enough to start a full-blown conflagration.
I wondered was she a tight-rope walker or a horseback rider, didn’t matter,
her steps danced through my mind to music I heard from a long way away.




Next day, the hands who remained after the walk-out saw to it the new hands
knew what to do, and there didn´t seem to be any hitches. Angelina worked
the main tent, Mario told me, as a pony rider in two afternoon shows
and two at night. I checked the times and gave Mario an excuse at 1 so I could
watch her from the back of the tent. Long black hair, deep almond eyes, like
I’d never seen a real woman til then, and it wasn’t the spangles, it was the forcé
of her beauty, like no one, not even a famished grizzly bear would attempt
to disturb. What she possessed, or what possessed her, was beyond my grasp.
After her last show I was studying the figures I’d come up with under the light
at the entrance to her performing domain. I didn’t notice her at first,
until I heard someone say, in a voice I couldn’t resist:

“Since when does Don Fabricante hire empollons ? Are you reading the book
or writing it?”

“Oh,” my voice suddenly heightened its pitch two notches, no no, er, umm, uh,
just looking at the figures for the day. Uh, I saw you today , uh, on the pony,
you have really good balance.”

“Do you say ‘uh’ at the start of a sentence every time you open your mouth,
always and forever, a person could get sick of that in a short matter of time.”

“Uhh, oh, sorry, I guess I’m a little nervous, I never talked to a top performer
like yourself.”

”What’s your name, Mr. Uhhh?!

“My name’s Stephen, now it’s your turn, what’s yours?

“You can find that information on your own, Mr. Stephen Uhhh.

And she walked away like the whole world, everybody in it, was waiting on her.

That night I reviewed the meeting and thought I detected, beyond the snippy remarks,
a slight, minor, I mean nothing recognizable if you weren’t looking closely for it,
but a little bit of a softening unleashed in her sidewinder, lady vaquero, style.
An opening? Hah, more like a change in stance, weight shifting from the left boot
to the right; you think I’m deranged, maybe a little, but if I am it’s from, you know,
you know what. I’d never thought about strategy in terms of a futile campaign
like this, but, I knew I couldn’t just let this run its course, I’d end up in an inferno.

That night it dawned on me that any possibility I might be harboring for a life
developing with her was delusional at best. I pictured what I thought might be a
scenario with her, and the circus was still in her she was in the circus, interchange
irreversible, she’d been raised in it, lived in it and it would never leave her, or she it.
I didn’t understand the life but knew she was inseparable from it. So here it is
Evangelina, my goodbye and hello, a praise song that will never be final, a
continuing ballad expressed in the only terms I know, not the circus jargón you understand,
so they’ll never find themselves on paper, but hovering over every one of your performances.
I worship where you are in yourself but know any prayer of mine doesn’t fit; I see you now
everywhere and I walk to a tune I’ve made just for you.


Whether it’s the change in weather or the way
your contrary bones speak, fascination invades,
takes a seat next to me and quietly states,
there’s never the right time to set it all aright
and leaning your way, it's the way of all fate.

You beat me from the start with dead-on wit
but it’s not defeat, when I realize that it's
to suss me out with your black diamond eyes.
your face from the inside out is fully lit,
your voice over me everywherfe freely it flies.

Sassy and cool in the same breath, your grin
downright beautiful, you're upright, strong,
you know where to stop and where to begin.

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