Home > Poetry > Greatest Show on Earth
Published: Wed Jul 1 2009
Wosene Worke Kosrof, The Inventor V (detail), 2022, acrylic on linen. Courtesy of Sullivan Goss Gallery, Santa Barbara, California
Greatest Show on Earth

You spent the morning vacuuming the closet,
its circus of shoes, sweaters fallen from the trapeze.
You spent the morning moving plants in the yard
and bought shampoo and stalled a line
at the pharmacy because of a coupon you couldn’t
find. When you finish your minor chores,
mislaying the entire stretch of morning, you sit
in the unfolded beach chair out front. Animals
at your feet and your thoughts going back to
Saturday when the mailman, who spends his lunch hour
parked outside your house, saw the dog and cat moving off
the yard. You drove the neighborhood,
discovering another Lab, not your own, sniffing lawns
like mad. And you kept driving in circles, doubling
back, the ringmaster shrugging from behind his sandwich,
the cat come from the woods alone.
Then you think of another Saturday outside,
asking your man: would you say you’re in love with me?
Throwing knives at his head, your dog burying
and unburying her ball in the silence.
On your fourth trip round, the mail truck pulls
from your house, the dog peering into the front door, panting
with joy over her disappearance—a canine’s most elaborate trick.
This is the easy stuff. You want to be remembered
all your days as your arms around her neck, you two swinging
from a perch, spilling into the sawdust light, and now
for the final act, the one the crowd goes wild for
because of its honesty, without blades, or aerial ballet, you
confessing into her unclouded ear, love love love.

Jen McClanaghan earned her MFA from Columbia University and her PhD from Florida State University. Her poetry manuscript was a 2009 finalist for the Dorset Prize, the National Poetry Series, and the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in The Iowa Review, The Missouri Review online, FIELD, and elsewhere. She is a resident scholar at The Southern Review. (updated 12/2009)

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