1930 Picture Book
On the barber-pole decorated stage
a fox terrier, neat and tidy
dressed in a maroon velvet bow tie
runs pitter-patter, jumps through a hoop
again and again; tail cropped
agile black and white body performing
somersaults to the accompaniment of
an orchestral piece with its frantic leaps and bounds
conducted by Monsieur Kabalevsky.
Next door, in front of a dirty yellow marquee
stands a barker with a megaphone, a midget
and the bearded lady – all 400 pounds of her –
pennies clink into a hat as a monkey
clad in green polka-dot pajamas grinds the handle
of a barrel organ. Two starched aunties
holding chequered parasols walk past on their way
to Ascot, engrossed in themselves
nibbling petit-fours and chatting bric-a-brac.
Dusty turns the page of her book
with its stand-out characters. In the communal
dining room a white sheet is stretched
between two tables. A projector whirls and
rattles away its celluloid images
while Itzik, falling asleep, forgets to turn
the handle of the translation and a row of
Hebrew hieroglyphics stops motionless
underneath the bearded lady.
Dusty giggles, closes her book
yawns, pulls up her eiderdown.
Outside a rooster crows, an elephant trumpets
as the rest of the twentieth century
with its surprises and horrors
stands waiting in the wings.
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© Johnmichael Simon