Posted by: David Harley | April 5, 2013

Sleight of Hand

When I walk the high-wire,wobbling and wavering
as only the iron-nerved and stone-hearted can,
you giggle at my meticulous ineptitude
and gasp to my orchestration
as I threat to fall:
but my safety-net is constructed
to rigorous specifications
and the highest standards
your money can buy.

Behind the motley
you fail to recognize
my other public faces:why should you recall the face
of the ticket-seller who allocated your seats?

If I cared,
I could place you
anywhere that suited my whim,
but seldom do such facile conjurations
distract me from my larger schemes.

Not for me, now, the commissionaire-crimson
of the Master-of-Ceremonies:
at present I prefer the red nose
and custard-pie-proof guise of the buffoon
while you gangle-dangle to any tune
I care to have you play.

Your names are of no significance: your numbers arbitrarily assigned for my convenience.
Your individualities
are no concern of mine
and I deny your right to an opinion
that doesn’t conform to my programme
(which I passed among you to offer for sale
as though you had some option of non-acceptance).

Now
I give you your reward:
I set my foot gingerly. The wire trembles,and the breath clogs in your throats.

I stick out my tongue. You laugh,
confirming my contempt.

I scream ‘Fire!’
and you smother the flames with your bodies
while I rattle the matches in my pocket,
unheard above the martial music.

I allow you crumbs and spectacle.
You give me gold and obedience.

And
you
call
me
clown….

First published in ‘Poems for Hastings’, published 1986 by New Hope International. Copyright David Harley 1982.

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