My Family Circus This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

October 11, 2013
My family are the ones who know me,
or the person I let them see. They are
the ones,
with their similar knuckled hands,
that hold together the pieces that
are me.
We are the “Ladies and gentleman,
boys and girls, welcome to the circus.”
We are
the circus of misfits, broken dreams,
and talents that lie embedded in
scarred chests.
We all
have a part of a show,
a role we must play.

My brother is the ringleader,
the man of sewed-on jewels.
He has
A papery smile and hands beseeching
the attention of the audience.
Look at
me, he says. Look at me.
The ringleader must smile his
paper smile
or the audience will see, will know,
that they're watching a freak show.
Their eyes
tricked and deceived by the flash
of his teeth and the glint of pupils.
a perfect one, he's able to create.
Look at me, he says. Look at me.

Dolled up and made up of makeup
and paste and color and guise is my sister,
the clown.
Gray is she beneath the costume
of polka dots and frill and rainbow.
My sister,
the clown. Everything a clown does
is for a reaction: noise, laughter, the toot of
a horn.
Take it off: the makeup, the hurt; the painted lips, the same; the costume,
the gray.
Don't be a clown, my dear sister.
My dear sister, don't be a clown.

The tight rope. The balance.
Those are the experts of my mother.
She walks
with her arms out. Burdens lie
ever-so-heavy on her shoulders.
She must balance. If she falls, she fails.
If she fails, we fall. We're the
ominous weight
that causes her body to sway. The bones of
her legs are strong, but her hands quake.
The tight rope. Balance. The tight rope.
Those are the experts of my mother.

A lion doesn't purr, an action born
from contentment. My father doesn't purr,
a lack
of fulfillment. He slinks through
his cage, his entrapment, with beady,
eyes staring out at the world his
might won't reach. My lion father
jumps through
Fiery hoops that are ablaze by
life's cruel flame. He pants and
he roars.
He bites at the lion tamer. The very hands
that feed him. The very hands that
love him.

And me? My role is uncertain for
uncertain is what I am. I'm the
the stick face child watching in delight.
I'm the clown with the faces that
don't belong
to me.
I'm the contortionist trying to fit
In a box, trying to fit in everyone's standard.
I am
the “World's strongest man,” boasting
of my strengths. I'm the elephant,
too big for the tent. I'm the trapeze artist,
dangling from the sky with eyes wide open.
I'm the
frills of a costume. I'm the bad. I'm the
good. I'm the mess. I'm the circus.
The circus
is me.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 5 comments. Post your own now!

Temperance said...
Oct. 2, 2015 at 9:40 pm
Jesus, this puts everything I've written and read to shame. Thank you.
EmmaClaire0823 said...
Jan. 11, 2014 at 5:24 pm
This is really good. I love it. My only point and it is really small is that you say your family is the circus at the beginning, but you end with you are the circus. Other than that I thought it was great. 
sammyjanee This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 3, 2013 at 4:42 pm
This is one of my favorite pieces on the whole website. I love it!
JRaye This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 2, 2013 at 8:06 pm
I really like this! :) It's so raw with emotion, a whole lot of clever word play going on. I wouldn't say I'm the best poetic critic, but to me this was really original and a good read. Awesome job! :) 
theblondechick This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 19, 2013 at 1:29 pm
I normally don't write poetry so this was kind a first time thing for me. I would appreciate any advice to make this better. Thanks.
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