Margaret Mackinnon: “At the Circus, 1925”


for my father

Again that spangled afternoon called him back:

only memory of his own father,

all of it wild and loud and new,

as if he’d learned some new language,

one with words for father, for Madame Zazel—

shot from a cannon!—

for the hours that shaped them both like wonder,

curved around the hot dust inside the tent.

For menagerie: twelve matchless tigers. And the skin

of an elephant, imagine touching it—

No other thing ever felt like that!

And both of them more than spectators,

both of them lithe and muscular and sheathed

in silk, their shimmering bodies high in air,

spun in space. Both armed with beauty.

My father, a small boy, with his father

beside him, a quiet god. So time grew loose,

stretched out to last his life—

as it would have to do—

When it was over, it was still summer,

the light still green and sweet,

that brightest season not yet brought to ruin.

My father believed in their long walk home.

The sharp scent of pine. Languid fields.

And happiness on the face of the heavy man

who would die too soon. All of it

remembered, just enough—

O euphonious choirs. Sing—

Margaret Mackinnon’s work has appeared in a range of journals, including Poetry, Image, New England Review, Crab Orchard Review, Los Angeles Review, and Alaska Quarterly Review.Her first book, The Invented Child, was awarded the 2011 Gerald Cable Book Award and the 2014 Literary Award in Poetry given by the Library of Virginia. A chapbook, Naming the Natural World, won the Sow’s Ear Poetry Review chapbook competition.

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