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The Circus Poems
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Alex gives an overview of the book:

Eight poems(from my full-length ms., The Circus Poems) which were featured in the latest issue of The Missouri Review.
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Eight poems(from my full-length ms., The Circus Poems) which were featured in the latest issue of The Missouri Review.

Read an excerpt »




         the ringmaster





The first ring is contained in a small box no bigger than your fingernail.

We keep it on a shelf with minor planets and constellations ­-the beasts,  

people, sawdust - the random arrangement of atoms and circumstances

that make up the world. I once knew a woman who believed that every

moment of every life was moving inexorably toward the same vanishing

point–the myriads moving on a giant canvas toward an invisible pinhole

somewhere in the middle distance. The stars continue to burn. The seas

pay homage to the sky. The brittle shards of days under your fingernails.





               The contortionist 





Her body twists like snakeskin - limbs looping around limbs,

her hair tangling like seaweed on pylons –  the music gyrates

as she lifts one leg to touch her mouth from behind her back

and extends her tongue to touch her eyebrow. The audience

is divided - the men clap like young sea-lions at feeding-time, 

the women and children shudder, fidget and cock their heads.  





               the clown





      Things are always collapsing. You climb the staircase of years, the steps

      crumbling  quietly  behind you. The rain falls down in gales of laughter,

      holding its sides. The moon disintegrates in a puddle of light. It all turns

      to dust eventually – the flowered wallpaper – the flapping curtains – the

      letters bound in tin boxes in the highest attic room –  the night’s paper

      wings flare on morning’s noiseless flames- collapsing, always collapsing.






                            The fortune-teller





She looks at you the way a man with grey hair looks at the ocean.

Her thin fingers caress the ball and there’s no turning back -black

nails clacking crystal and the low hum of her voice, soporific and

foreign, winds in your ear. You are on a very long voyage, unsure

of your destination–  many companions will come and go, certain

places will hold you - you are moving, returning, always returning. 






                            The acrobat  





At the top of the pyramid, like Pharaoh piled on a bed of slaves,

she balances on three fingers –  then flips her grasshopper body

and lands on the white stallion’s back as it canters past.Her body

melds with the horse – its snort and rumble pulsing through her    

feet –  tight muscles and tendons snapping –  mane flapping like

white seaweed in a bridled sea of dust and plumes and  memory.      







    The magician





Stars on his fingernails, sky in his hair, breath of the sea in his voice.

His father sailed west on an Ottoman clipper -journey of the Magus 

from Constantinople. The magician knows the world, feels its blind 

dominions held tight in the sleight of his hand. We stumble through

the world like drunk men in a fog, outstretched arms clutching at the  

air. Now you see it, now you don’t – then he takes your breath away.




                              The roustabout  




For him, there is no Ohio, no Baltimore, no Fuquay-Varina -

they melt into a single place he left on a slab-grey afternoon.

His hammer slams the metal peg into red earth, the clanging

metronome of honest toil, heartbeat of a certain kind of man.

Tonight he will drink blood-red wine– trail his fingers across

peeling photographs – rise once again into slow continuation.   






                               The audience  





The line of people loops around the barriers like a Chinese dragon

eating its own tail – ouroboros in a Delaware field - like Quetzalcoatl,

God of the morning star –  who laid down with a celibate priestess,

who created man using bones of the dead and blood from a wound

in his penis,  who burned himself to death and whose heart became

the morning star - his ashes falling to earth and becoming the grass.   



alex-grant's picture

A nine-page feature in one of the best litmags in America.

About Alex

 Alex Grant's Chains & Mirrors  won the 2007 Oscar Arnold Young Award(Best North Carolina poetry collection) and the 2006 Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize. Fear of Moving Water, his 2009...

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Published Reviews


It’s easy to see why Alex Grant’s chapbook Chains & Mirrors won both the 2006 Randall Jarrell/Harperprints Poetry Contest and the 2007 Oscar Arnold Young Award (for best book by a North Carolina poet...


Alex Grant is a native Scot currently living in North Carolina. His manuscript, Chains & Mirrors, won the 2006 Randell Jarrell/Harperprints poetry contest and was recently awarded the Oscar Arnold...

Member Reviews

fola-mordecai's picture
the magician,i thinks is all about how this life and our everyday activities is full of illusionist,mediocre s,and journey man and woman that likes...