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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



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