After he juggles three chainsaws and spins twenty plates balanced on sticks, he moves to the grand finale: ten Bowler hats tossed across the arena and stacked on the ringmaster’s head.
The juggler’s drum
loud with my heart’s penny.
After he juggles three chainsaws and spins
twenty plates balanced on sticks, he moves
to the grand finale: ten Bowler hats tossed
across the arena and stacked on the ringmaster’s
head. He gets to nine and misses, and misses
the tenth three more times, cheers rising
to a roar with each failure, until the drum
rolls and the spotlight finds him for the final
throw when he nails the last hat on top
of the stack and the audience stomps their praise.
Next morning, when I straighten my hat
it hits me: the misses were part of the act,
the juggler knowing the crowd would admire
his skill, but would love him even more for
his imperfections. And when I arrive
at my office, where there are no stage lights,
drum rolls or applause, and the crowd
I work will only suffer more if I screw up,
I stand under my shingle juggling
the books and briefcase in my arms,
open the lock with a silver key,
and walk up the long flight of stairs,
head bowed, hat in hand.
Dr. Berlin is Senior Affiliate in Psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. E-mail: Richard.Berlin@gmail.com. His most recent collection of poetry, PRACTICE, is published by Brick Road Poetry Press.