We looked so lovely when, as girls, we wore
those fat, starched ribbons in our ponytails,
white matching pinafores of eyelet lace,
and coal-black patent leather boots. A pair
of beauties in cahoots, we whispered jokes,
then sang on stage in high, canary voices
our slow, plaintive duet, its innocent
refrain of love and never-lonesomeness.
They asked for autographs, the soft-voiced men
who stared with quivering hands and rheumy eyes,
and looked like they might gobble us. We shared
that uncleaved slope of skin and bone, our pelvis-
to-pelvis perma-dance; like knotted gymnasts,
we shook and shimmied cute but double-wide
through doorways into spotlights with a smile
and dual curtsey, to applause, gasps.
Charmed by our pale parasols, they wept,
the wives, and whiskered gentlemen adored us,
but we yearned for the lion tamer’s boy.
We wrote him love notes on blue stationery.
He kept away from us until we lured
him close with mirrored blossoms, twenty fingers
to coax him toward our slim, carnivorous petals.
He tugged our manes and gentled us like felines.
We were a two-stemmed cherry made for sharing,
but he picked only one. The smell of lions,
fur and fetid breath, would make us flinch,
but we stayed stalwart, played the melded darlings
until the end. Now our strange rest positions
remain a comfort underneath the sheets
these evenings as we hum ourselves to sleep.
Our joints are bad, our voices crack, we charm
no one at all. The carnival has gone.
We stare out separate windows of the house,
and hold a single silence, drink our tea.
When we undress for bed, we speak no words,
dream riven dreams of sharp knives glittering.
© by Joanna Pearson