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