The twins ask for a tent and call it
the burden of mercy. On the first day,
women begin to wait outside.
Ropes hold the tent flaps open, wave the women in.
Afternoon is for high heat and cleaning
out the straw, the air.
On the third day more women appear.
The twin who talks leads them out to the gravel
where weeds with jagged edges grow:
she teaches them to pick their own way.
This leaf if quickening hasn’t yet
begun, but this one if it has.
The women clutch bellies, say they are stopped up.
They do not say what is doing the stopping.
The fortune teller appears and says
it is the fault of the moon, the circus’s
metal is so strong that no tides can reach her.
The silent twin thinks,
no circus planted a seed inside you,
and no circus will take it out either.
The twins give her tincture,
and press low on skin with the heel of a hand
until blood appears. The fortune teller
will stay for two days in the tent
while the mind reader waits outside,
purring, rubbing against the canvas walls.
On the last day, the twins meet
the pregnant women. They hold hands,
palpate bellies for kicks and size.
They feel breasts for milk, rub shea butter
from knees to feet. The fortune teller sleeps
so the sisters tell fortunes:
this many days after the moon, or,
you have two inside you, like us, or
this one’s lungs will be weak,
or, this one wants to come out wrong,
let me show you, this is how the midwife
should move her hand inside you and turn.
The mind reader wakes in his tent
from a long sleep. The twins are gone by then,
carrying silver coins in scarves,
leaving behind an open space, grass
knotted low, smell of burnt alfalfa.
Tracks lead to the towns the circus has already left.
He wonders what was there: in a landscape
of animals, tents, dreams he sees oceans
within each body, muddy bones dissolving
bit by bit into each wave.