MEMORIES OF THE CIRCUS

  MEMORIES OF THE CIRCUS

For Carlos González Peña

Travelling circuses,
with the dainty little dog's
encyclopaedic brilliance
discrediting the elephants,
taught me trivial comedies,
laughable super-catastrophes.

On came the aeronaut first,
hanging on by the skin of his toes,
daring explorer in reverse;
whether or not he glimpsed the poles,
north or south, he had personal scores,
God of the Winds, to settle, of yours.

In burst
the clown, like a loud and dubious noise,
bump and bruise, infancy, lunacy,
all nightmare and naughtiness.

How he was loved by the kids
for coming out of a magic
candy-pot: just his face was tragic,
cochineal tear this side and that.
Powdered thick, he could either be thought
Of as spick and span, or as caked in smut;
His glory was a conical hat,
precarious, pert, on his occiput.

The clown touched
the bearded lady and found
she was all of sugared almond, to judge
from the lifelike mime of the whole of his frame,
when he raised his audacious fingertip
to his cynical gluttonous tongue.
The day the clown presented a sniff
of the bearded lady to be savoured
by the Honourable Governor of the State,
that was the day I discovered
Executive Power disconcerted.

You faraway clown of my early days,
my virtues pristine, so carefully raised:
I couldn't be tarred with any suspicion
of almonds and bearded ladies forbidden!
These sugared almonds,
dashing, in velvet and frills,
we're not to touch the hem of their train.

The futile goodbyes
to each idolised Eve revived,
who denies us so much as a crumb,
but who dins into our spirited blood
a cringing, a cadging
of almonds, not to be had...

A four-handed creature
in frou-frou and zephyr
came galloping into the ring,
in fear, as if human,
and mastered the nasty obstacle-course
and the awkward paper hoops.

And when to the learned
demurring of Darwin
they dressed her, obscene, in the frou-frou,
the wise little monkey
kept calm as if faced with a trick in the glass,
resigned to the dismal transformation.

"I'm the wandering dove,"
warbled little Miss Bell:
and from bottles and bells
gushed a tumbling fountain
of watery sounds
for the watery thirst
of weary papas,
the flighty nurse
and the querulous child.

O circus memory, fading away
in the unrhythmical
clashing of brass,
the heavy drowsiness
of the gas;
the stupid skill
of that lion-tamer who used to tease
the well-stuffed beasts, and the vacantly
swinging trapeze...


Ramón López Velarde
Translator: Timothy Adès


   Zozobra (1919)    
Original version