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Open at nightfall

June 26, 2013

On our recent Australia adventure, part of our time in Sydney coincided with the Sydney Festival, a monthlong celebration of art, music, theater, and other performances scattered throughout the city. Tickets could be pricey, so George awoke at 3:30 am to catch the series of buses that would get him downtown and in line in time to procure “rush” seats. One of the shows we were fortunate enough to see was Cantina in the Famous Spiegeltent, the inspiration for this piece. It’s a work in progress, so be daring and let me know what you think.

Night Circus

“Not for children”
The sign should be posted
definitive no for youngsters
drawn to the curling columns,
cartoonish front panel of the
spiegeltent exterior
eager for acrobats and contortionists
feats of flight and fancy
feasts for eyes and ears

Perhaps simply the hour
acts as height meter indicating
too young to ride
Famous tent stands quietly as toddlers
clamber over nearby monkey bars
only shining its true lights against
soot-black sky
True night circus
open from dusk on

Patrons queue for the unexpected
best seats or standing room only
no one is sure
Gently wrinkled hands curl comfortably around
plastic cups of summer-evening wine
red etching softly along lip line
white sweating coolly against beringed fingers
pour the first refill
velvet ropes cast aside

Inside, ‘20s returned
carved wood columns support striped canvas
tenting cozy banquettes surrounding
cheap chairs crammed against
center stage
everywhere they look they see
themselves
reflected from every angle
Most stop too stunned to
check their hair
quietly debate which seats
assure autonomy yet voyeurism
We dare sit so close our knees
brush the platform’s curtained edge
folded arms could press its scuffed wood
too daring, even for us

Music begins
Tom Waits and a pianola
setting the tone
everything the children wanted on
display
but distorted
as wavy glass on mirror-lined walls
tightrope walker in high heels
acrobat in blindfold
illusionist naked before all
contortionist neither
back bending nor forward but
broken doll tattered
party dress torn

Drop from candy-striped ceiling
gasp in awe
walk across jewel-bright shards
gasp and squirm
throw her as in drunken anger
perhaps too much reality
even for this crowd, this show
dark as soot
bright as sparks

—Julie Laing

Credit where it is due: The final lines and title were inspired by Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, a must-read for lovers of magical storytelling of all ages. For other great reads, head over to this week’s open mic at the dVerse Poets Pub.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2013 1:05 pm

    I had to google Spiegeltent. Very cool. I think you captured the flavor of it very well.

    Like

  2. June 29, 2013 2:07 am

    A very cool piece !

    Like

  3. June 27, 2013 12:38 pm

    Something almost psychedelic about this, Julie. Your descriptions took me into that tent with you. I’m woozy.

    Like

  4. hisfirefly permalink
    June 27, 2013 7:24 am

    dark as soot, bright as sparks

    what a brilliant ending!

    Like

  5. June 27, 2013 5:43 am

    These kinds of ironic reversals can be so effective. Your poem sets the stage well. K.

    Like

  6. June 27, 2013 1:08 am

    A rich and vivid depiction!

    Like

  7. June 26, 2013 9:31 pm

    how fascinating that must have been….these are the things of trips it is great to luck into..sounds a bit surreal and overpowering as well…ha…i probably would have loved it…smiles…cool cool…hope you are having a great summer!

    Like

  8. June 26, 2013 9:18 pm

    oh wow…your poem def. made me curious to check out the piece – i can imagine that all the mirrors make this all the more overwhelming

    Like

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