The Show Goes On Nels Hanson

The Show Goes On Nels Hanson

Last night her strong-armed catcher
caught “The Princess of the High
Trapeze” and “The Strongest Man
on Earth” naked in the straw, tiger’s
den empty, locked door ajar. A big
cat stalked the city’s avenues, made
the radio, ran down two stray dogs

and devoured both whole, before
in red coat, black top hat, tall shiny
boots, the ringmaster shut an eye,canvas-1009232_1920
aimed the rifle and hit one shoulder

with a dart, clapped on heavy chains
and led the waking prisoner back for
the show that afternoon. Brave tiger

tamer in cork helmet, safari’s khaki
held stinging whip, revolver full of
loud blanks but appeared hesitant to
enter the circular steel-barred cage.
The crowd stilled as the carnivore
gone wild crept silently, way lions
leap a cornered antelope, fearsome

mouth spread acres wide, bared ivory
teeth dripping. Then its scarlet rough
tongue licked the outstretched hand.
A thousand voices roared and the big

top went dark. A hidden trumpet blew
the fanfare, five spotlights pointed up,
high as if to frame a would-be jumper,

a suicide. In silver swimsuit set with5059901668_4d50bedcda
bluest stones the uncertain Princess
waited from the crow’s nest of her
tower, miles above net-less air and
sawdust. She pushed off, three times
back and forth, swing a dying clock’s
pendulum, let go, turning, tumbling

over, over and over, until last of her
quadruple somersault. Hours it felt
she waited for the loyal so familiar
hands to grasp her out-flung wrists

forever, never letting go. She floated,
remembering an old story at school –
for the trial by fate, an overflowing

hushed audience, a walled arena’s two
shut doors. A gallant commoner, true
lover of the princess, must choose, to
wed another or die, her father’s mad
decree. She lifts a hand from a silken
chair, to signal her lost love at which
closed portal a lady or the tiger waits.

BEFORE THE RAZOR button ver 2

razor iconNels Hanson grew up on a small farm in the San Joaquin Valley of California and has worked as a farmer, teacher and contract writer/editor. His fiction received the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award and Pushcart nominations in 2010, 12, and 2014. Poems appeared in Word Riot, Oklahoma Review, Pacific Review and other magazines and received a 2014 Pushcart nomination, Sharkpack Review’s 2014 Prospero Prize, and 2015 and 2016 Best of the Net nominations.

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