The Safe Display of the Rare and the Strange

A circus came through town
Among the feats of fantastical danger and the acrobatical, body-bending wonders
Beyond the animals, dizzying themselves with their caged pacing
and past the stand selling roasted peanuts and hard striped candy
was a tent boasting the rare and the strange within
and for fifty cents you could see it all.
The rare and the strange
on display
so we can gawk in safety.
 
Inside were little tarpaulin rooms
marked by words begging wondrous stares to peer behind the curtains
“Amazing! Man with two heads,” read one placard
Past the curtain sat a man with a round hairy growth on his neck
and when he moved, the thing on his neck rolled from one side to the next
like a drunk unable to keep his head upright
drawing the attention of onlookers who love to see
the rare and the strange
on display
so we can gawk in safety.
 
Across from the two-headed man
another sign seduced the crowd,
“Captured from the Amazon – half monkey half woman!”
Past the curtain was a glass coffin
and the people who gathered looked on in bemused horror
The thing inside was dead, covered in hair
And one couldn’t really tell if it were man or woman
Still, the sight did not disappoint the morbidly curious
who’d come to see
the rare and the strange
on display
so we can gawk in safety.
 
Next to this room was another sign
“Unbelievable power!
The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven!”
We looked expecting to see a preacher who fills stadiums
or the bones of a saint
Behind the curtain was a little girl of seven or eight
dressed in a tattered, dirty white dress with puffy sleeves.
She was black as Iowa dirt, and shuffled on a clubbed foot.
She looked up from the rags and rubbish she sorted with innocence and excitement
Peering at those who had come to see
the rare and the strange
on display
so we can gawk in safety.

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