Every ring of the circus
held delights for all of the boys and all of the girls, especially this, the Greenboro & Snyder Bazaar
. When it rolled into town the night before, everyone had stopped and stared, this was a real royal event. Every train car
held a wonder and were topped by long flowing flags, which whipped in the foreground to the great plains sunset
. It was Greenboro
, here at long last.
Along came the caboose as parents down the line shoved hands deep into their pockets, turning up nothing but corduroy and empty overall. But the last car gone saw children spin on their heels and begin to tug on those same overalls and hems of mothers’ dresses, their faces all bunched up in excitement, shrieking & dancing in their wanting way. Mother and father exchanged that look that said they’d be digging into jars and lifting up mattresses at home that night. The children ran on ahead while parents walked together, “We’re in the wrong business” they laughed and shook their dusty heads.
The parents had to be stern that night to get the little ones into bed. Said things like “I heard the lions only roar for children who turn in on time” and so away the children went into dreams of clowns and trapeze. Though the younger ones had never seen, older sisters & brothers told tales a little tall, the elephants grew, the human cannonball shot so high as to never be seen again...
The next morning the school house was a hive of giggles and anticipations and “I can’t waits.” All except Samuel Magee. 3rd row 2nd seat, who sat with a particular look, he wasn’t sad, but he didn’t share the buzz. On the steps before the bell rang his peers had poked and jeered, wasn’t he excited for the show, wasn’t he gonna go? He looked calm and said no, because he knew he had already seen all the show he was going to see last night by the line. While all the other kids just couldn’t wait for the next night, little Sam had taken it all in. Arms hanging at his side, eyes wide, he remembered the sound and smoke of the engine, the bars through which he saw blurred animals and a trunk poking out here, sticking out there. He saw the painted ads on the side of the cars with clowns & curiosities, and it all made Sam giggle.
So when the caboose called out “see y’all at the circus,” Sam’s little hands found his pockets. He knew there would be no extra nickels or dimes for his parents to find for such a thing.
But even when the school day was over and the show had begun, young Sam didn’t lament he was on the wrong side of the tent. The things he had seen last night by the tracks had been amazing for Sam, and he had seen more than every other kid, because for him,
the train passed slower. And that was his own free show.
Now Sam couldn’t tell you if you asked him why, but I know it has something to do with how much you expect. Waiting for something else to enjoy as the show passes you by on the tracks. Because see, the little sips are the best taste of the soup if you’re not waiting to gulp.
This is a slam poem that I wrote in january 2002.