At the circus I saw a cat
balanced on a large yellow ball
spilled paint over blue stars

and little girl, I wondered
who was this tiger in the off-hours
what manner of creature lay sleek
smoothly coiled beneath his skin

and little girl
his lazy yawn did not deceive me
because the trees once told me
Beware of very large cats
who set to stone the world before them
cause us baited breath and awe
remaking the earth in their image
between thick golden paws

this the trees asked of me, a little girl
who are false gods and idols?
but beasts with sharp teeth and warm amber eyes
to draw you into a circle of steam
with the drifting smell of orange tea
and a small cup of just the right depth
laced between your cold fingers

So in the circus I sliced
and the tent rent itself to me
peeled back like skin from a wound
to show me all the stars in the sky
I squinted so as to try to see their true colours
not white or blue or yellow like a ball
but red and orange because really
the quiet tiger has licked all the galaxies
the sky is on fire as he feasts
on round planets and distant stars

but he sways his soft tail slowly
motions through his masters tricks
and who would ever know
he was the one behind it all