Aphelion Issue 291, Volume 28
February 2024
Long Fiction and Serials
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Flash Fiction
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Carnival of Freaks

by Thomas D Reynolds

Always crisp, freshly combed, impeccably dressed.
Spiritless and implacable, the only exceptional act.
Out-freaking even the bearded lady and Snakewoman
in creepy repose, his seemingly unshakeable faith
in the paunchy young acrobat clambering gingerly
onto the platform, breathlessly climbing the ladder,
reaching the mark with only a brief worried glance
and a weary smile to a visible relieved audience.
Hyperbolically announcing each death-defying feat,
the old barker never looks up, not a wrinkle moves,
becomes most remarkable then (when his spiel ends),
how he stands coolly unconcerned with the degree
to which the world matches his great expectations.
Statuesque, inflexible, the barker stares ahead
at a bare stretch of ground just past the crowd
as the acrobat, wiping sweat, prepares to leap.

Though never applauded, the barker's on display,
a slender mummy raised from the Valley of Kings,
impeccably preserved, drained of all imperfection.
Not the king, but his long-suffering manservant,
eternally glossing over the young royal's mistakes,
praising him for the smallest of accomplishments,
shrouding his boredom, and superiority over all.

© 2006, 2007 Thomas D Reynolds

Thomas Reynolds teaches at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, and has published poems in various print and online journals, including Combat, American Western Magazine, Flint Hills Review, Alabama Literary Review, Aethlon-The Journal of Sport Literature, New Delta Review, The Green Tricycle, Ariga, 3rd Muse Poetry Journal, Sidereality, and Prairie Poetry. My poem "How to Survive on a Distant Planet," published in Strange Horizons, was nominated for a Rhysling award for best short poem.

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