track 1

At the circus

Every elephant seems to wear
either too much eyeliner or fake
lashes. The skin seems impenetrable,
but she acts oddly abashed, hesitant.

It is our nature to attempt to codify,
to categorize. We note patterns
and kneel before them, worshiping
what is only really our ability

to extrapolate erroneously. We
reward ourselves with the thought
that the world is ordered, with fine
rugs and decaying cemeteries.

-Todd Young


track 2

FROM EMPTINESS

Absent, all light and shadow.
Complete, the perfect emptiness.
A darkness so profound, can there be no way to know
Whether the defect is in the world or in my eyes?

How can I know?
Sitting alone in this silent night.

track 3

THE SHORT MAN

I. THE SHORT MAN

God-forsaken city
Hotfoot step, unyielding pavement
Heave against the roiling torrent. "Excuse me."
Keep your balance, push your way
Through scowling crowds of animal men
In cars and busses and trucks that roar
And pour exhaust into the racket,
Acrid, choking fuming din
Sweaty smells, chafing skin,
Pounding, pounding, grinding, throbbing
Shoving quickstep sirens howling
Engines, tires, hissing growling
"Excuse me. Excuse me."

Downtown, in the middle of the day,
A short man walking down the street, stopped.
He closed his eyes against the noise,
Standing on the corner, he lost sight-
No more greens or yellows or red,
His head filled up with a different kind of light.

He dreamt a fleeting daydream
Of his only child, his precious son,
His solitary, darling boy.
This is what he dreamed:

In his dream, there appeared his child's face,
The color of his hair and the tangy smell of play
That only belongs to children.
He heard the soft sweet sound of his little boy's peculiar little giggle.
The eager, happy face, "What do you want to do today, Dad?"
The playing, chasing, tumbling, running,
On endless lawns, that stretched forever, on endless afternoons.

Then the man let go his breath with a sigh.
He gave a twitch and opened his eyes-
Back on the corner with the traffic and the noise,
He made the sort of contented whimper
That he was wont to make
In the impenetrable face of love.

This done, he resumes his ordinary breathing.
He squints and sniffs.
He walks on in the extraordinary light
Of the ordinary bright hot day.
Green light, he crosses
And goes walking on his way.

track 4

II. THE ROAD

On the highway at night,
There is the closeness of the car
The comfort of the heater and the dashboard lights-
How far?
The radio drones, it talks and plays, not your kind of music.
But you'll have to settle,
It's the only station you can get out here.

Headlights glow in the distance.
Circumstantial evidence of fellow travelers who, you suppose,
Sit in the dark behind the squinty glare of headlights,
Of the occasional passing cars.

And it's mile after mile after mile after mile
Of mile after mile of broken lines.
The car does all the work.
And the only mountain you need climb is time, time, time, time.


track 5

III. EVERYTHING FOR THE TRAVELER

Everything for the traveler-
A place for him to eat and a place for him to sleep.
Everything for the traveler-
A place to wash off the dust from the road.
Everything for the traveler-
A quiet room where the roaring of engines is far off in the distance, now.
In his quiet room, he can barely hear the highway.
In his quiet room, he can barely hear the road.

Everything for the traveler-
Except, of course, for all the people whom he knows.
Except, of course, for his wife and his child.
Their absence fills him with a feeling
Not as strong as, but not unlike despair.
Call it gentle, quiet despair.
Call it unimportant despair in the heart of the traveler.

His footsteps crunching on the gravel of the parking lot seem loud to him now,
In the solitude of night.

He's just returning from his dinner at the coffee shop
Where he only spoke a dozen words to the waitress,
A dozen polite and functional words or so.

Where he and several other solitary diners, like thousands before them,
ate their dinners alone in the same bright, nearly empty room in which nobody really lives.

With a key on a tag that fills up his hand,
He opens up the door to his room,
He switches on the light,
And the vacant darkness becomes vacant brightness.

He washes his face then he dries it
On a crisp, clean, unfamiliar towel,
He's never rubbed his face on this before.

He watches television for a while- nothing's on.
Then, lights out.
He lies on the bed,
On his half of the bed.

He stretches his arm out, reaching for his wife- not there.
Reaching for his wife, he comes up empty.
His wife- not there.

He switches on the bedside light,
He throws off the covers,
He reaches for the phone,
Then he sees the time on the face of the traveler's alarm clock-
Too late.
She's gone to bed an hour ago
He can't call her now, she would worry.
Why had he called her so late?
It's too late,
He can't call her,
She would worry.
She seems to love him so,
He doesn't want her to worry.
So he watches a cold, dead rock rise up into the sky,
Tinted yellow, it appears on the horizon,
Turning cold, turning pale, turning bright, turning white,
It rises up into the sky.
The sky. The sky.

track 6

IV.THE SHORT MAN'S DREAM

I dreamed I saw the judges and lawyers dancing down the streets of my hometown.

While mothers bounced their babies on their knees and pointed and tickled and cooed and said,
"See the funny men, my baby, oh, see the funny, funny men baby, oh."

Meanwhile, there was a-hatching, down at the local power plant
An unanticipated terrorist plot,
Down at the local power plant-
The plant that supplies the power,
The plant that supplies almost everything to everybody.

Meanwhile, there was a-hatching, down at the local power plant,
A plot-
Perpetrated by several unsuspected, well-connected, otherwise a cut above the ordinary men,
From out of town,
Whom nobody seemed to know.

They were turning off the lateral gravity.
That's the force that connects the mother to her child.
That's the force that binds the judges to the lawyers.
The terrorists were turning off the gravity at the local power plant,
Disconnecting all the people in my hometown.

Goodbye, goodbye, Your Honor.
Fare thee well my baby, oh.
Goodbye my dear sweet mother.
You counselors, go to God.
You lawyers, go to God.

track 8

FROM MEMORY

I'm sorry, do I know you?
Have I seen your face before?
Have we shaken hands or said "Hello?"
Are there any promises between us?

I'm sorry, do you know me?
Have you called me up on the telephone?
Have I been to your house? Have you been to mine?
Is it odd, my asking?

You see, the thing is, more and more,
I just don't know what I know.
I've seen too many things, too many sunsets,
I've been to too many shows.

I'm sorry, were we speaking?
I sometimes drift away.
You should know that it's not you, it's me. It's me.

I see the spark of life in your eyes,
See your face lit up with a smile.
I'm guessing that you've seen sunsets, too,
But are you smiling at me, smiling for me,
Smiling against me, smiling past me?
Is somebody standing behind me.

You don't need to answer, your answer won't mean a thing.
Is that the sun on my face?
I know that- the sun on my face.
Hello.
I'm sorry, do I know you?

-Garry Eister

track 10

REST IN PEACE, BRUCE JONES

I. I DIED FOR BEAUTY

I died for beauty, but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb,
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room.

He questioned softly why I failed?
"For beauty," I replied.
"And I for truth - the two are one;
We brethren are," he said.

And so, as kinsmen met at night,
We talked between the rooms,
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names.

II. WE DO NOT PLAY ON GRAVES

We do not play on Graves-
Because there isn't Room-
Besides-it isn't even-it slants
And People come

And put a Flower on it-
And hang their faces so-
We're fearing that their Hearts will drop-
And crush our pretty play-

And so we move as far
As Enemies-away-
Just looking round to see how far
It is-Occasionally-

III. ON THIS WONDROUS SEA

On this wondrous sea
Sailing silently,
Ho! Pilot, ho!
Knowest thou the shore
Where no breakers roar-
Where the storm is o'er?

In the peaceful west
Many the sails at rest-
The anchors fast-
Thither I pilot thee-
Land Ho! Eternity!
Ashore at last!

-Emily Dickinson



"At the Circus" 2010 Todd Young
Emily Dickinson's work is in the public domain
all other texts 2012 Garry Eister
image- "Monkey on His Back" 2011 Mark Bryan



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