I: Tom Thumb
As they sweep through midnight and spring rain,
they seem to step straight out of a vision or a pantomime
in which three stoned stage hands join into parody
their awkward limbs beneath a fabric cut and sewn into a skin.
I mean the gray-brown elephants linked trunk to tail
and stepping one by one out of a tunnel on the East River
that have me thinking again of you, Tom Thumb,
transfigured and pushed out into the light as, “Ladies
and gentlemen, the man in miniature, presented
so we might consider the dimensions of our race.”
Or, conversely, our need for diversion—a boy of five
taught to take wine, to puff on cheap cigars
and, later, dressed up as Napoleon, his size explained
by way of maternal impression, a mother’s grief
over a dog that drowned. And so what is it we’re supposed
to learn, the audience chuckling into our popcorn
as your horse farts and you raise your bicorn hat,
or standing damp and sullen behind police barricades
as the troop lumbers, trunks lolling, across town,
towards the circus ring they’ll circle into June?
Something about want, which is the eye, its pupil black
and wild, insatiable for whatever it hasn’t had before?
Something about the girl twirling a baton,
who goes before the elephants, leading them on?