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Circus: Tightrope Walker

ISSUE:  Spring 1996
I am not what you think: mindless.
My father read aloud
the poems of Pushkin. Each day
he read to us as we traveled,
my sister curled like a kitten
under his coat. Even now, if you ask,
she recites, word for word,
her favorite. First Russian, then English,
just like father—same rising of tone,
as if it was poured into her sleep.
These words make forks in each road of the mind,
they reach in all directions,
like lanes we traveled to tent sites
on the outskirts of forgotten towns
where the animals, agitated in their stalls,
fed on hay and oats. Nothing is simple.
I warm my muscles with hot rags
and stretch in the half-light of morning.
Physically, I am strong, agile,

but this is not the essential. I can concentrate.
I can quote Pushkin. I can follow the words
to a meaning, and then further,
where there is no net below.


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