Freedom - Poem by Frank Gutsche
Emblazoned red alleys in an evening sun, visitors forlorn;
lost in a mosaic of tents, a shanty town, as they swarm
inside maddened labyrinths of dust, lines roughly drawn.
Packs of dogs, street sellers, a land of sand, wind blown;
youths steal into a vestibule, a pleasure path, a canvassed dome,
follow perfumed girls, red painted lips, into their sensual home.
Hungry faces, beyond far fields, taste the bile of bitter earth;
outside the borders of all the cities that cut to frame the world,
spiraling questions, unanswered, gather in this town right here;
its name is Freedom: of mortal time, want, of pain, slavery, or fear.
'What life finds Freedom? ' you ask; I beg, lend me your ear.
Inside the rising din, the circus theatre of Voltaire,
staked tents, poles, cupola stately high and tilted square,
under grey canvas, torn in strips and filled with holes,
I find myself, nape extended in the mute back rows.
The spotlight struts and trains its beacon narrow,
before it all denuded, cuts a path into the shadow.
The beam alights the director's sweating face, shaped a pear,
barrel built, chaotic mustache a la Dali, shiny pomaded hair.
His crimson frock worn through, brass fanfares sound the queue,
announces to the gaping audience a spectacle well tried and true.
Then hungry artists thin as bone,
parade in the circle one by one.
Languid dwarves, garish costumed clowns, smeared in white-red paint,
their tales indifferent, their hearts to all, laugh as all will surely faint;
tell of sadness, indolent of life, silent and bare of all complaint.
Then the acrobats, arrogance of men of power, nude contorted feats,
stack atop each other, race across bodies, virile, ready to compete;
ever higher the men of will and might, the top to slip, to fall and tumble,
once aloof, trampled under bulls' wild hoofs, as the bottom crumbles.
The menagerie: sadism and lust, phallic men, gods of harsh whips,
lead captive men, women, pulled on steel chains' tightened grips;
to perform as uniformed beasts: apes, lions, horses; on their knees,
erased behind mad eyes, seized; their venal masters they do please.
The audience applauds and cries for more,
and the fire-eater comes to the fore.
He drinks the oil, its dark substance gone,
swallows all he does not eat; set alight it briefly shone,
Prometheus' gift of fire, avarice, his need so deep,
for him only, in his bosom, to forever keep,
to savour what can't be spent: hedonism and his greed.
Trapeze artists: man and woman, tight grips, no net to break their fall,
fly, bend, jump, catch each other; life on bars swung by love and call.
The audience screams, the man plunges, she does not make the catch;
in jealous rage, alone atop the stage, looks down: he was not her match.
Tightrope jugglers, costumes sumptuous, glittering spinning toys,
turn golden coins, the balls of life, catch, circulate, keep their poise;
indifferent to all below, their world a vagrant line; a sudden careless slip,
in a moment of lightness, when descent is flight, off the rope they trip.
In the town named Freedom, a circus theatre of Voltaire's design,
I stand, and you will ask what I came here to seek and to define;
that Freedom answers the inevitable? An accident? An unanswered call?
Freedom is none of these, but of this other it is all:
freedom knows those hungry, for in loss they are generous,
makes the haughty humble, the indolent filled with tenderness.
Most of all, freedom is life's passion lost, it longs to bestow,
to give power to love, so that it may, unleashed, overflow.
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