two poems

by Jeffrey Hermann

Welcome, One and All, to the Infinite Circus

Go home. The circus is closed. See, the clowns
are regular men with shadows on their chins
their frowns blending in with all the others
The elephants are free to go, too
They’ll walk their patient walk
wherever it takes them and likely outdo us all

I made this happen. I thought to bring a lion a man
so we could shudder at the thoughts inside
the minds of each. I put a girl in a swing
above your heads and fell in love with the arc
she made upon the air—fell in love
with your heartbeats in freefall

But that is over. She’s likely a wife by now
being pulled apart by a husband, gnawed on by infants

I look at the stars sometimes
and feel disappointed. Or is it their disappointment
I feel? Standing in such subtle light there’s no telling
what it is they want, what extraordinary thing
they want to see. If I knew I’d set to work this minute

I’d invite you to our home where my wife
could prepare a meal with potatoes and carrots
and bread pudding and in the center ring, a roast
I’d have the children bring out the dog
They’ve taught him with a snap of their fingers
to scale a set of stairs and leap through their arms
formed into a hoop

And there’s a trick my daughter is learning—
to send a coin through the top of the table
and land with a clink on the floor. When she does it well
her brothers applaud and she and the dog together
take a bow, and I get a little tingle wondering
what in heaven she might do next

 

Solitude and its Remedies

Never almost get a tattoo—it makes for a poor story and here’s mine:
It was summer, me and my friend who wore his hair in a pompadour
drove to Red’s, but we were drunk and underage and Red said come back
in a year. We weren’t friends by then. I went home and fell asleep
the same as always, my skin untouched

It’s funny I never took up smoking yet I always loved matches
They say smokers want to embrace death, something I avoid
Building a fire fills you with purpose, a stack of wood out back
You have to knock snow off the logs before you bring them inside

put them in place, setting off sparks. I’ve never had sex in front
of a fire but inside a car, yes. You don’t take off your clothes
just pull away this, loosen up that. After, you’re inside a place
for just the two of you, a little house that keeps out the outside

I once went to the home of an abusive husband to take away his children
I pictured opening the door, saying their names, taking the stairs
But they were just inside, the two of them holding hands, their faces calm
We walked together in the dark to their mother waiting in my kitchen

I gave them cookies, she cried and smoothed their hair
While we waited for the police we listened to the silence outside
to the quiet coming from their house just next door, their father
alone in one of those rooms

Jeffrey Hermann’s work has appeared in Hobart, Pank Magazine, Juked, Houseguest Magazine, and other publications.

Artwork by: Natalie Bradford