Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2011


by Lindsay Fursland

Why I ran away? A circus-shaped
need I suppose…
I was thirteen. I could only
scoop up after the elephant. She taught me
all I wanted to know of motivation:
up on her hind-legs, she forsook dignity
for a Cox’s Orange Pippin,
memory jolted by her trainer’s shockstick.
Then, I made an entrance with the Grimaldi Brothers…
between the acts, I swept and shifted
the muck while they mug and mime for all they’re worth.
In this Beckett set, who wouldn’t
clown for their life?
Who wouldn’t whoops-a-daisy to pre-empt
a good kicking or the waterboarding of words?
Who wouldn’t laugh instead of
the other thing?
So, we worked up some business
with rake and shovel, whacking and tripping, until
I wore that bucket of dung as my glittering crown –
and hundreds hip hip hoorayed when I
fell over…
Engage your audience – play up to them!
they said, and then the conjuror took me
under his wing, got me to play God
with handkerchiefs, to miracle a menagerie
from my sleeves. And then the fire-eater
took a shine to me, initiated me
in french-kissing tongues of flame.
Finally, the trapeze – the one who flies.
I am in heaven! I know
gravity gets you in the end, but for a moment
being saved - in that snatched moment -
and better than laughter, better than ooh and aah…
I hear up from the dark the white noise
of applause: the tumultuous pavilion
is parent, lover, child.
No words. There are none.

Added: 27.04.2011

Judges' comments on this poem


Engaging opening with some beautiful turns of phrase; the ending seems tagged on and could end on a more subtle note.


well crafted, reminiscent of duffy?the circus as metaphor,liked the notion of the motion-no shit...


I really enjoyed this poem. Simple, touching, narrative, clever use of words, hooray! Very good, it feels real, I wonder if it is?...