The Beginning of a Smile


And I saw the faintest hint of a smile curl around her lips as she pursed them close and let happiness do a little dance in the bright celestial light in her eyes. Believe me, I saw the beginning of a smile on her face, and it was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

The turquoise painted edges of her long, beautiful eyelashes glittered under the spotlight like the rarest sea diamonds. The white strokes on the other end looked like the exquisite trademarks of an artist. She stood there, as the curtains closed and the sparkling spotlight withdrew, looking like the most beautifully completed painting. In front of her the crowd broke into a storm of applause, for she had indeed touched them with her brilliance.

She danced like a swan, Mavis. The most beautiful, graceful and elegant swan. Her skin was the warm colour of dusk, difficult to discern even on the most vivid palette; its hue flowed symmetrically from her neck to her toes like smooth caramel. As she turned succinctly to the song, it seemed as if she was yet another melodious note in the music. She danced with rhythm and freedom in the most non-contradictory fashion; she was her stage, and the stage was hers. It was as if a pink feather had befriended the wind, and had agreed to dance her first dance with him – Mavis was a joyous bird in the sky, who had captured my pale heart with her spirit.

In her dance, people saw art. She indeed had a gift, and she knew how to portray it. But as she moved effortlessly on the grand stage, the spotlight fit on her like her own shadow, I saw her pain, as I saw every day when she sat in quiet moments and glimpsed at the sky. The crowd which awed and gasped around me was only aware of the many meanings and feelings she projected with the melody; but it was only I who knew that she was also a reflection of the tornado of emotions within her – she was the expression of her own pain and wretchedness – the most beautiful fire birthed by bruised stones.

As she danced on that stage she would often curl within her own soul and unfurl herself like a dazzling magic trick. She would wind and unwind like a rope, and rise and fall like a wave in the sea. As she twirled into the fancy circles of complex musicality, eagle-like posture and ingeniously immaculate, she would often shred away the cobwebs of tragedy which her heart housed. In her breathless revolutions she would become unmindful of her pain and she would dare to become a person who hadn’t seen the dark machinations of fate. It was as if her dance allowed her to dive deep into the dark rum of life, and let go.

And when she paused to breathe, culminating her art with the most perfect movement, preparing to bow, she raised her head a little high and looked across the blinding lights at the sea of people which looked back at her, some with tears in eyes and clasped hands, just about to break into a thunderous applause. And just before she bowed  she would let the moment seize her and purse her lips together allowing a small grin to curl on the damp shore of her lips, and happiness would vehemently  dance within her glittering eyes, and I swear in that moment I can spot, the beginning of a smile.

And it happens but rarely in life that some beginnings are so beautiful that you wish to stay stuck in them forever and never see the journey they were meant to start.

The Poetry Within You


Dear Lucy,

The business has dropped sharply ever since you left. We now travel in caravans; I had to sell the circus building. It is being broken down; no music swirls out of its bright gold-filmed windows in the evening anymore. We now have half-hearted soup for supper, sometimes with bread. But it’s not so bad. Something about Charles Dickens has inspired people to believe that there is something remorse about being broke and poor, alas, despite him being the great writer that he was, it is not so.  I still have the wealth of each bright, lit-up and glamorous circus night within my heart, and they make me a rich old man.

The music from Empress Flurence, drums and all, still whistles in my ears. The poetry of our dance, the sing song of the trapezium, and the sliver of artistically blown smoke rings – ah the beautiful days within me. The extravaganza of our circus was unmatchable, but I knew they all came only to watch my Last Dancer.

I apologise for showing no grace in my letter, but I must ask you, how are you? I hope the big city is treating you well and is offering you every comfort you dreamed of. I hear that you are looking for work and that you are engaged to be married soon. The best of my wishes, dear Lucy. Everybody here at the company misses you, especially Matinee, our jazz monkey. I wish you’d have never run away.

What is sad is that I wish so not for myself, but for you. You had the power to become something the world had never seen. I could see it in the way you moved on the stage, I could feel it in the way the audience gasped when you stopped to breathe in the end. I saw it in the restlessness within you, as you sought avenues to set your demons free. It is true that it was your beauty and demeanor which made our circus what it was, after you left, the people just stopped coming in. Each evening without you was as dry as dream, as if the sun had never risen, as if the music had never been sung. After all what is reality without the touch of passion? They say I am turning delirious.

Today, I do not write asking you to come back. You were never my prisoner Lucy, for I am but an inebriate man. I am sorry that my cage had cooped you, and that the cruelty and misery of the circus business stole your murderous smile, but I must warn you not to mistake the kingdom of your talent for a prison too. You mustn’t run away from what is within you. You, princess, are a forest on fire. You are burning all over and your blaze and light are inescapable. You must dance like starlight and burn like flames. Dive into the dark rum of life, and do what you must, but never forget, that your gift must become your discipline. Claim the stage, and light it up.

I never was the master of your body, but I am the master of your soul. Bless me Lucy, and do not let the lights of the city turn you dark. In your world, you must become my Last Dancer again.

Still A Circus Master

Marcus Mackenwright