The year the circus never came down town
to the spare square piece of land
on which we were in command,
seemed barely believable.
One three year old cried into the chips and peas
her mother had sent for as she was hopeless
at making tea, couldn't even ease open
the cooker's door, though my mum
often showed her how to switch it on and off
with recipes galore.
We stitched together old itchy blankets, sheets,
and grandma Pickles Knickers to make a tent.
Some stole bendy poles that held up
whole washing lines
so we could dance around,
training ourselves to be Coco the clown,
roaring beasts, learning growls
while we prowled the nettles.
Jimmy who was the oldest, highly stung,
and always scrubbed up well, was erected
master of the ring.
Mr. Barkanovitch, the Russian émigré
wood carver, from Palavar Street
gave us three bags of saw dust chippings
plus the clown’s shoes his long dead son
had worn on his feet,
while swallowing swords
at the Siberian Circus before the war.
Everyone who came to applaud
brought torches filled with batteries
so they could find a way back.
They all went wild
when Jack, stylishly
dressed in the cute clowns suit,
stalked Tony who had sneaked out
his mum’s fur coat
and wore it along with the kitchen curtains
trailing the floor as he roared.
Finally mud pies were thrown
so they all got covered from head to toe.
Then we had to go home.
It was the best circus ever,
and though we often wondered
it never came again,
while leaving those left who could imagine
touched deep down inside,
much more than they could ever say.