Shirts or Skins, a 2014 poetry chapbook by Jim Redmond


I went to the circus and watched
the body of a huge man
almost break under his balance
of three slender girls.

I tried to measure his soul
in a sudden meniscus of light
but couldn’t help hating the mind-suck
of thinking-leads-to-knowing-another
and I wasn’t having any of that.

Give me a mean fix to shake off.
Give me Diogenes naked, groping
in the light of new commerce
looking for an honest man.

The slip of a rotary dial back into zeros.

The Ferris wheel clicking away
spidered the skyline with its own
slow certainty. From that height
it was obvious and total. Fortuna’s
slick spin cut across knowing,
any sure thing. The low light

where one of the clowns led me
into a trailer, and there asked
what I thought of the show.
I said, I didn’t care much
for shows. I said, I didn’t think
a man known for swallowing
a sword, for show, was a man.
I was never given the gift of that faith.

Later we drank some cheap wine
with a woman. Her hair was so dark,
like a secret kept open to everyone.
We played a quick game of cards.

I kept folding. I said, my heart
is a spade laid flat on the table
because it sounded so good
but they could tell I was bluffing.


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