The dead are seated in rows at the Cirque d’hiver;
they cannot remain quiet any more, they want
to have something to cheer about, need to have
something to applaud. They have missed Cracker
Jacks, cotton candy, peanuts in paper sacks.
They love the clown with his greasepaint smile,
the little dogs in their ruffled collars, the magician
pulling silks from his sleeve. They don’t need
the marquee acts, the motorcycle turning circles
in a cage, the woman dancing on a silver wire
high above the crowd, the tigers with their meaty
breath. The dead want sawdust, the smoke
that lingers after the cannon goes off, the steaming
pile the elephant leaves. Even that.
Barbara Crooker is the author of six books of poetry: Radiance, winner of the 2005 Word Press First Book Award and finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize; Line Dance (2008), winner of the 2009 Paterson Award for Excellence in Literature; More (2010); Gold (2013); Small Rain (2014); and Barbara Crooker: Selected Poems (2015). Her writing has received a number of awards, including the 2004 WB Yeats Society of New York Award (Grace Schulman, judge), the 2003 Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award (Stanley Kunitz, judge), and three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships. Her work appears in a variety of literary journals and anthologies, including Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania and The Bedford Introduction to Literature. She has been a fellow at the VCCA fifteen times since 1990, plus the Moulin à Nef, Auvillar, France, and The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, Ireland. Garrison Keillor has read twenty-four of her poems on The Writer’s Almanac, and she has read her poetry all over the country, from Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine, including The Calvin Conference of Faith and Writing, The Austin International Poetry Festival, Glory Days: A Bruce Springsteen Symposium, and the Library of Congress.