The Lion Tamer Turns Back

From behind the tent flaps
he watches fire blown from lips
ballooning in blazing orange
ladders sway   dust rises   clowns stumble
pathos in their eyes
as they totter around the ring
hooting and grinning    the crowds distracted

he looks up at the swaying trapeze
look down   at the absurd

his heart thumps   he cracks his whip
with hands clenched tight he slowly turns
towards the feral scent of the big cats
as they flex their limbs   pace from side to side
cower back flinching  trained yet untamed
dazzled under the lights

he pauses   stands   quite still
as they extend their claws leaping on blocks
already scuffed   and  scarred
he turns back   just one more time.