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The Greatest Show on Earth


ISSUE:  Summer 2012

There they are beside the tracks.
But let’s begin earlier, let’s have it be
this morning. They’ve just crossed over
the Susquehanna on a trestle bridge:
the clack clack of wheels waking
the tigress in her berth, the elephant braces
himself, splays four legs stolidly.
I must have been eight
when my father stopped the car
and we watched the circus unload.
One by one the animals descended.
The ostrich sashayed down the steel
ramps into the city streets. The giraffe
even bent her neck to fit through the door.

What happened later I cannot say.
But I knew I’d seen something
I couldn’t talk about—at least not casually.
When the oncologist put up
the slideshow of my mammogram
and I saw how the calcifications
had formed a tight cluster,
saw the look on his face had grown stern,
I had no questions, only the clear sense
that I, once again, would never be the same.

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