Jen Edwards

Circus

I remember where I came from: 

            my parents blind

from the dust, bowl shaped scars carved
in their skin. The earth sieved

through the roof when the storm ended
the drought. They needed me

to leave forever. They shook my hand,
my long stalk trembling

in the night wind. I didn’t know a child
could leave home alone.

I didn’t know a mother could hurt herself,
that blood was not thick enough

to bind. I saw a raw fire bloom
across her face,

my father’s palm quick to snuff it out.
I joined the circus:

the girl with the monkey tail, amputated
legs. I swung on elephant

trunks, got paid in bananas. Me Jane, You Tarzan,
I squealed. Little girls

in mother’s pearls cried for me. Fashioned legs
out of lime

popsicle sticks, sat under the canopy of my long
brown hair. They named me

Charity. Their grandfather’s clocks ticked
seconds in hallways.

I learned that love requires a hammer
and a feather pillow.

I learned the weight of a doll’s house
under my fingertips.


Jen Edwards’ poetry has previously appeared in The Laurel Review, The Journal, Confrontation, and is forthcoming in The Normal School and The Pinch. She is a PhD candidate in English at Oklahoma State University where she studies with Lisa Lewis. Currently, she is the Associate Editor of the Cimarron Review.