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11 July 2013updated 02 Feb 2015 4:11pm

“Cirque de Modernisme”: a poem by Joe Dunthorne

By Joe Dunthorne

                       Ezra Pound mesmerises crowds
with his which-fez-is-hiding-the-pince-nez shtick
while Gertrude Stein, astride two palomino hinnies,
recites “nightwear’s enemy” and other anagrams
of Ernest Hemingway, the burnished strongman,
who flexes his glutes then tears through Ulysses,
no sweat, before Thomas “Nine Lives” Stearns
takes aplomb-less turns on the parallel trapezes
in his unambiguous catsuit, swinging from low
to high amid footnote confetti. For the grand finale,
James Joyce, hobo clown, hoists flaming hoops
toward the big top’s roof. The Woolf tucks herself
in the literary cannon. Apollinaire starts a snare roll.
Ringmaster Proust, with his chevron moustache,
lights the fuse. A scent of burnt madeleine then boom,
in a plume of chalk dust, she splits the air,
The Human Comet, her hair aflame, she flips
through not one, not two, but three burning rings,
the crowd all stand and sing her name, her colleagues
wince, the band play Schoenberg’s Dial-up Modem
in B flat major, the tent is a plague of hands

but no-one checks where Virginia lands.

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