States of Poetry 2017 - ACT | 'The Jugglers' by Isi Unikowski

The Jugglers

In the warm dusk, pink and purple arcs
appear above the old town’s lanes
as jugglers toss their clubs outside
a gallery’s bright, acrylic interior.
Petunias lean from baskets like cheerful spectators
carriage horses wait in plumed rows
for tourists from the ship that dominates the wharfs
below. A couple and their son pause
with the laughing crowd.
He allows himself to be photographed
against a fresco along with trappers, traders and explorers.
             – How thin he seems beside those ramparts.

His parents, under strict instructions not to look back
to see if he is following
look back
but he has turned away
he has become hard to find in the shadows
at the audience’s edge.

Lights flicker and shift on his face
as he seems to stare at a juggler’s jeweled midriff.
But he too is conjuring
glass constellations that glitter in his mind
an arc of possibilities across the warm night sky.

What are they worth, those dreams,
if they don’t burn like acid
if they are not as heavy as uranium
if they don’t scatter like quicksilver, only to return
when the rain, like a child,
brings its neighbourhood to your door?

Isi Unikowski


Another recollection in tranquility, this time based on Quebec City. The technical interest in this poem, for me, was about how physical contrasts – light and dark, thin and heavy – might serve as an objective correlative for the familial drama taking place.