He is supposed to be mucking out the stalls,
but there is a problem, the same problem as always--
The elephant shit looks like an old man's giant brown head,
the straw in it the hair, the shovel so handy!
He bashes at it with all his might, then runs for his wagon, and his pen.
Later, he is sorry.
Sylvia has him sitting in a trough, naked, red-eyed,
and she is tenderly washing away the last specks of dung from his face.
"You are a genius, Eddie," she says softly.
She wrings out the cloth, folds it neatly and lays it over the trough's edge.
"It's a brilliant story."
Eddie stays sober for a week.
Looking at the elephant shit, he sees Mount Olympus;
the straw in it is wings! Wings of the Immortals!
Thinking of his late mother, and of the women in whom he finds her kindness,
he throws down his shovel and runs for his wagon and his pen.
"Fuckin' ay, Eddie!" the crew boss roars, gesturing vaguely with his cigar.
"Can't you just shovel shit like I pay ya t'do?"
He burns with shame and promises to do better,
but all the while he resents this cretin, this imbecile and his petty concerns!
Soon, Eddie is fucked up again.
Sylvia comes around to the animal trailers to try to soothe him.
Last time, she found him asleep in the tiger's cage;
she lifted his head from the cat's rough tongue and placed it upon her bosom.
This time, she finds him staring at elephant shit, his shovel forgotten.
"What is it, Eddie?" she asks, her voice betraying her worry.
"The birds!" he points, agitated and trembling.
Sure enough, crows are feasting on the droppings.
He is still thinking about the Immortals. "Pallas! A bust of Pallas!" he cries.
"Eddie? Are you sure you're all right?"
But he is gone, off to his wagon and his pen.
This time, the crew boss will fire him,
and the hopelessness of it all, the futility of Eddie's brilliance and her love,
sinks into her bones like sickness.
"I'll be in the kitchen," she calls after his back, but she knows
by the time he comes looking for her she'll be gone.
for Ella's very cool challenge at Real Toads. Combine a favorite poet with a circus setting.