The Art of Being Human

This being human is a circus trick.
Day after day you perfect your act:
a   t i g h t r o p e   w a l k
between      now     and     then,
a flourish,
and then back again,
one foot in front of the other.
It’s juggling swords,
eating fiery words,
putting your head in a lion’s mouth
and inhaling its meaty breath.
It’s the highs
and lows
of the flying trapeze,
the bearded lady’s  s l o w   s t r I p t e a s e,
and the absurdity of being a clown,
keeping the audience laughing while you drown
in your own tears.
At the end of the show,
after the final bow,
you remove the greasepaint,
extinguish the glow,
and get the bus home

Kim M. Russell, 16th March 2021

File:Jean Louis Forain - Tight-Rope Walker - 1951.208 - Art Institute of Chicago.jpg

For my own prompt at dVerse Poets Pub Poetics: The Art of Being Human

‘Tight-Rope Walker’ by Jean-Louis Forain, ca. 1885, found in Wikimedia Commons

79 thoughts on “The Art of Being Human

  1. This is gorgeously worded, Kim 😀 You had me at “Day after day you perfect your act: a tightrope walk
    between now and then.” The poem resonates as nowadays ever since Covid, I have learned not to take things for granted, to make more time for people I care about and yes, to keep hope alive 💝💝

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The metaphor is too true throughput this poem. Extremely well written! The isolation and dark moments give in—for that is being human and raw. Real. Days don’t always come easy but when pulling off the facade we wear, they do get better. Beautifully said!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This poem is brilliant in its theatricality, Kim: I felt like I was there at the show, especially with lines like:
    ‘putting your head in a lion’s mouth
    and inhaling its meaty breath.’ (shudder!)
    I like the stretched out words as well, and the bizarre spectacle of ‘the bearded lady’s s l o w s t r I p t e a s e’
    followed by the pathos of solitude at the end. Masterful!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. LOVE this take on the prompt, Kim. And aren’t you the one who does not like clowns? I love the ending….at the end of the day, the grease paint comes off and we go home to the solitary and comfortable place we call home where we can be ourselves and avoid the roar of the crowd and the smell of the greasepaint! 🙂 I actually contemplated using the circus for my post and then thought about the merry-go-round idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lill. Yes, I am afraid of clowns and not fond of circuses with animals in them, although I was entranced by Cirque du Soleil. Iwas over tired last night and got up later than usual this morning, but I’ll be over to read soon.


  5. powerful poem, stunning metaphor, expressive layout and such an accurate depiction of the highs and lows, the juggling and lions mouth … then we go home alone to a safer sanctuary where the circus continues in our head!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A troubled journey that doesn’t end especially well, but beautifully written, Kim. The bus ride home and alone makes me want to weep!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh Kim I’m right there with you tonight. Fantastic poem, you really knocked it out of the park. I loved the images of sticking your head in the lion’s mouth, and could almost smell the meat breath. The last word on its on line really punched home.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “the absurdity of being a clown,
    keeping the audience laughing while you drown”
    Really resonates as I think of all of the comedians over the years who’ve hidden their sorrows so we could laugh. The circus show is what my old job reminded me of. Every day felt like taming lions.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Or more human. Young children are just who they are, even when they are pretending. And they seem much more human than most adults, who have so many masks they don’t even remember what’s underneath it all.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I love the way the rhymes sneak their way into the free verse format, it’s very circus like, evoking chaos and order and the unexpected waiting just inside the next tent.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. the circus metaphor is wonderful – all the different shows and these superb lines
    “It’s the highs
    and lows
    of the flying trapeze,
    the bearded lady’s s l o w s t r I p t e a s e,
    and the absurdity of being a clown,”

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Kim, I’ve reread this to enjoy the wordplay and the imaginations so real. This is an exceptional creation. Being human is a circus trick, for those who can dare and later remain alone after the show…

    Liked by 1 person

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