/c lawrence

Sawdust and Tinsel

In approximately ninety minutes, you will kill a bear,
the failing star of the circus you travel with—

the revolver in the wagon hiding under the mattress.
You will kill a bear on your sofa, sipping a beer,

while your wife folds laundry, and black and white
images silver your whole body into the dream

of an evening with clowns and the woman riding
bareback, horse gripped with only her thighs.

The story will have opened up its overcoat to you,
revealing a lining hung with many mirrors.

You can see your reflection in it: now wearing
the circus master’s rags, his bib of sweat, and mustache

doused with liquor, the cocked gun in hand.
You will kill the bear because the story leaves you

no choice, and you remember words spoken
in your own voice: we should shoot everyone we feel sorry for,

because in every animal is a desire to perform
an action worthy of its kind, and the bear

is sickly now, and at some point everyone
must decide whether to take revenge or be merciful,

and knowing which is which isn’t always simple. Yes,
by the movie’s end, you will kill a bear and then walk

around the house, turning lights off, mumbling
to yourself, wondering where your bear has gone,

and what have you done, and how will your circus go on?


Cameron Alexander Lawrence is a graduate of the University of Arizona and lives in Decatur, GA, with his wife and four children. His poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in ImageWest BranchForklift, OhioWhiskey IslandAsheville Poetry Review, and elsewhere.