After the Circus
by James Cihlar

If you once moved from a town
to another, you may remember
looking at modular homes
with your father and new step-mother
in a gravel parking-lot,
as he kicked your shin lightly
your father barking “settle down.”

Or if you grew up in a town
that years ago gave up hope
of ever having a name,
you may remember the parking lot behind the circus,
gravel dust on your pant cuffs,
aqua and pink cars with fins:
the place where the lack of action
designated action elsewhere.

If you have ever worked in a factory
you may have driven on the mosaic of smooth,
level, and tilted planes of concrete reflecting sunlight,
to turn the aisle and see
a run-over pigeon, half-dead, half-alive,
its body reconfigured.  What if
you put him out of his misery,
or carried him inside to heal, or
just turned your head?

by James Cihlar

All day she would talk under her breath.
What was she saying?
We looked at her things
in her dresser
as a way to get close to her.
The stretchy black pants
with the stirrups that slipped
over her instep.
The nylon blouses
with intricate designs.
At the bottom, a detailed pencil drawing
of Christ on the cross in the desert.
In my drawer, a photo of her
in her twenties,
wearing a light knit pantsuit,
sitting on a tractor in a cornfield,
her hair pulled back in a neat ponytail,
looking over her shoulder
with a smile and a wave.
The sun erases her face.

by James Cihlar

One word
takes us to the next.

Map them back
and find

how one street has become another.
I’ve come back to honor

the houses dead
set in their lots,

fronted by flower beds
in the swimming pool’s glow,

purple and gold irises blooming
at the end of night.

Here’s what I’ve grabbed
from there to here.

A snowman from my mother.
A voice singing in the hall,

warm light behind copper.
Nothing’s changed.

I’m sleeping at the end of the street.
The chestnut tree nods its benediction.


James Cihlar’s poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Bloom,
Minnesota Monthly, Northeast, The James White Review,
Water~Stone Review, Briar Cliff Review, and in the anthologies
Aunties (Ballantine 2004), edited by Ingrid Sturgis, and Regrets Only
(Little Pear Press), edited by Martha Manno.  Cihlar’s work has also
appeared online in
Lunarosity, The Big Ugly Review, Cerebral
, Muse Apprentice Guild, Sunspinner, and Kaleidowhirl.  
In 2000 he won a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship for Poetry.  
His book,
Undoing, is forthcoming from Little Pear Press in 2008.

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 2, Number 1
(Spring 2007)

Copyright © 2007
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.
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