Tigers in a Circus

Under the glaring lights
of the big parade tent
the tigers seem larger than life,
arranged on pedestals
like giant wind-up toys.

And some growl
beneath white-plumed chests,
and some gaze off, that way,
bored by the arrogant tamer’s antics
for the popcorn munching crowds.

A crack of the whip
and one tiger rears up on hind legs,
makes a praying gesture,
while little boys in sailor suits hiss
as a tigress leaps,
through her flaming hoop.

The kaleidoscopic pageantry
of sparks of orange and black,
the white of bared teeth,
the amber of sullen, ferocious eyes,
revolving round the black figure’s
outstretched arms,
as though he held a
captured fear by its strings.

But suddenly, one breaks ranks
and lunges, swipes,
roars the untranslatable rage,
and in a split second the whip
cracks down.
The unspoken, wished-for thing
flashes on the watchers’ faces

like a gasp,
and a little girl,
clutching cotton candy,
buries her face in her mother’s blouse,
terrified by this freedom
made to dance for
these tamed souls.

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