(for my mother)
They were my only friends in youth.
Strung up like that they couldn't run
away. They couldn't even laugh
at me, their faces painted shut.
A bear with a ball, a juggling clown,
four marching soldiers, their heads made out
of wood. A sequined black-light skater,
a poodle with a bone, a rabbit
Who blew balloons and a balding waiter
with two tea cups. Such a curious group
to socialize, yet they huddled close
on the rack, caught in the friendship of strings.
Every hour on the hour they'd
perform their special tricks, but before
the curtain was drawn, while we waited
for the pupeteer, we crouched among
Black velvet draped against the light,
aware only of the silence
we stared blindly at each other,
each one of us afraid to breathe.