Paul Muldoon: Le Jongleur



Some days it looks as if I might be limbering up

for my role as a human cannonball

complete with an athletic cup.

When it comes to protecting my thingamajig

I take my cue from the Good Thief

and stay close to Mr. Big.

Mr. Big always gave it his best shot for those few years he found himself in the ring and managed to get out of some pretty tight spots.

Often I'm simply going through the hoops

of practising the Chinese pole

while the ring is cleared of elephant-poop.

For I may unabashedly fly the flag

of the newly independent country of myself

while working on a new car gag,

the one in which I put my trust

in the removal of all sagging springs.

Some bring back the tusks of an elephant in must.

Most afternoons I find myself plying three Indian clubs

as I wait in the cloud-grey vestibule

for a smack in the gub

from the big top's sawdust- and tiger-fug

by which I'm still more often than not revived.

Each elephant sports its own hessian rug.

Some days it looks as if I might be limbering up

while the elephants go huppity-hup

through Uttar Pradesh or the Transvaal.

When it comes to protecting my thingamajig

I couldn't give a fig

about wearing a fig leaf.

Mr. Big always gave it his best shot but even he ended up hanging by his topknot

like one those acrobats from Beijing.

Often I'm simply going through the hoops

rather than actually looping the loop

with Diavalo at Barnum's or the brothers Cole.

Or I may unabashedly fly the flag

for Mr. Big or the Good Thief or any of the ragtag

pickled punks they keep on the top shelf.

The one in which I put my trust

is the motor car that's built of rust

and spit and cardboard and bloody butcher's string.

Most afternoons I find myself plying three Indian clubs

while the world shrinks to the size of an upturned tub

for an elephant who's learned to abide by the rules

of the big top's sawdust- and tiger-fug.

To get nineteen clowns into a Volkswagen Bug

requires the ministrations of at least three midwives.

Some days it looks as if I might be limbering up

for my role as a human cannonball.

When it comes to protecting my thingamajig

I take my cue from the Good Thief.

Mr. Big always gave it his best shot

for those few years he found himself in the ring.

Often I'm simply going through the hoops

of practising the Chinese pole

so I may unabashedly fly the flag

of the newly independent country of myself,

the one in which I put my trust

in the removal of all sagging springs.

Most afternoons I find myself plying three Indian clubs

as I wait in the cloud-grey vestibule

for the big top's sawdust- and tiger-fug

by which I'm still more often than not revived.



Paul Muldoon (born 20 June 1951) is an Irish poet. He has published over thirty collections and won a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the T. S. Eliot Prize. He held the post of Oxford Professor of Poetry from 1999 to 2004. At Princeton University he is both the Howard G. B. Clark '21 Professor in the Humanities and Founding Chair of the Lewis Center for the Arts. He has also served as president of the Poetry Society (UK) and Poetry Editor at The New Yorker.