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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 3: May 2020
Poem: 168 words
By Nancer Ballard

After the Circus

His skin has toughened 
grown over itself. 
His lip is knotted with veins 
a living root ball. 

A sea of pillows 
to support his too great head— 
this student of Psalms, Shakespeare, 
Shelley and Lamb. 
He turns invisible pages with a delicate hand 
counting the hours until the actress arrives for tea. 

Outside his door 
the doctor shows them pictures 
urging well-wishers 
to think of his forehead as the wisdom of trees, 
his hair, silk strands of beads. 
“Extend your hand, his left is firm.” 

He is grateful for a glance, 
overcome by a smile. 
The women tell their curious friends, 
“He pours tea just like a prince.” 

The actress dampens her lips 
and gives him a signed photograph 
another smooth face for his bureau. 
How many friends are lined up there... 
How late the afternoon has grown. 

He extends his good hand, 
the actress turns toward the door. 
He bows though it hurts, so as not to see her leave. 
Elephant star 
Prince unicorn. 


—One of three Finalists in MacQ’s Magician Ekphrastic Writing Challenge

Nancer Ballard
Issue 3, May 2020

is a poet, creative nonfiction writer, and lawyer. She is the author of Dead Reckoning (Good Gay Poets). Her recent work has appeared in Rest Between Two Notes (ed. Fran Forman), The American Journal of Poetry, Here Comes Everyone (Silhouette Press), Memoryhouse, and several anthologies including Affective Disorder and the Writing Life: The Melancholic Muse and The Science of Story: The Brain Behind Creative Nonfiction.

She has an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and is currently a Resident Scholar at Brandeis University’s Women’s Studies Research Center where she works on interdisciplinary projects that combine writing, literature, science, and mythology.

For more, please see her website: https://nancerballard.com

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