Poem of the Week

Ringmaster

Abigail Frankfurt
Painting of two pandas at a dining table by Abigail Frankfurt

Say you finally decide to run away and join the circus — but by the 3rd mile your knees begin aching — so you slow down to a brisk pace — the circus is well within sight — but now your lower back nags at you; all those years waiting tables, car crashes, lifting boxes the wrong way — so you stop to lie in the grass — stretch the way one of many physical therapists taught you — when you feel loosened you look toward the West — the circus tent is waiting — that perks up your spirit and you gallop until you hear circus music circus happiness circus kettle corn — where is The Big Top, where is the bearded woman where are the conjoined twins — i am here i am ready to be brave — i will swing from the trapeze, i will cross the high wire! A clown — wearing ridiculous shoes and scrambled red hair appears — his face makeup is smeared leaving his mouth turned down — he says, “The circus is leaving town. You lived the life you lived. The one that kept you stuck. The one that had you convinced that streaming Netflix and avoiding neighbors was behavior you would have time to adjust — once you began ‘living.’” And i say, “you aren't very funny for a clown.” he says, “We all miscalculate time, the days; I never read Mo Yan. I was too quick to follow The Ringmaster. I was young and squirrelly. I had to join the circus.”

Abigail Frankfurt is a poet and visual artist based in New York City. A central concern in Frankfurt’s practice is the intersection of image and writing: the hybrid territory where both art forms meet.
Originally published:
November 17, 2021

Featured

Essays

Race Off

The fantasy of race transformation
Namwali Serpell

Essays

Suicide in Fiction, Reconsidered

Why we need stories about living after a suicide attempt
Morgan Thomas

Conversations

Discipline and Abolish

Writing, power, and mass incarceration
Rachel Kushner,
Caleb Smith

You Might Also Like

Poem of the Week

Plum Madrigal

Lisa Russ Spaar

Poem of the Week

Children of Lions

Eugenia Leigh

Poem of the Week

Pale Evening Dun

Rob Schlegel

Subscribe

Become a subscriber to get four beautiful issues a year for just $49—and help keep print culture alive.
Subscribe