“Juggler” by Gail Martin

Gail Martin


I can’t stop thinking about that man
alone on the spot-lit stage, juggling knives
of different heft and blade length,
cleaver, butcher knife, stiletto.

It seemed dangerous, but he’d scoffed,
like a dog wanting more
than walks and water, bored
with the predictability of what came next.

He asked the audience to pitch in.
Purses opened in the dark and suddenly,
nail clippers, lipstick, a warm wallet
full of children’s faces.

From stage left came eye glasses, a corkscrew,
a folded handkerchief. From the right, a condom
and a blue glass paperweight
that looked like the world. A wedding ring.

He accepted each of them, tossed
them up into the expanding circle,
five items, nine, twelve. It seemed
he could juggle a horse if you tossed it.

Suddenly, a small caliber hand gun,
Smith & Wesson. He doesn’t hesitate,
doesn’t check to see if the safety
is on or off. He just continues to pay

attention, to catch whatever gets thrown
at him and put it in motion, the relief
of releasing it each time it circles,
the loyal dog of gravity bringing it back.

from Rattle #35, Summer 2011

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