"Art de Cirque" by Kelli Lage

Updated: Dec 3, 2021


A chill wraps itself around my neck

and needles make a knot inside my right fist.

The right joint always raised red flags,

even when I chose to chalk it up to acidic butterflies,

especially on the nights when you drifted to my passenger seat

and coughed out smoke shows.

My teeth chatter.

knocked out by your ice-cold veins.

I spit into my palm

and see a necklace of years passed;

my string has always been thin

and your edges always sharp.

You rattle this earth and make walking off its rim

art de cirque.

Tickets are sold and crowds of our classmates fill your stadium.

I try to shred the stubs,

but you pay off the operator of my dreamland.

Your hair bleeds into midnight;

the rush of a pen leaking.

No one’s dam strong enough to stop the overflow.

You catch audience members’ howls in the dead center of your hand.

Their eyes look away in shame

when they realize cigarette holes are burnt into their drivers; seats as well.

Silence washes your stage clean

as if you were the one who knew how to clean up a scene.

End show.

Cue guilty applause.

Behind the curtains made of casts you thought you had removed,

I hear broken bones yelp.


Kelli Lage lives in the Midwest countryside. Lage is currently earning her degree in Secondary English Education and works as a substitute teacher. Awards: Special Award for First-time Entrant 2020, Iowa Poetry Association.

Twitter & Instagram: @KelliLage

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