New Wanderverse installment, short one this time, picking up where "Meanderland" left off. As always the whole thing is CC0-licensed. Made possible by members, also as always!

that strange-eyed girl
you met at the circus
who poses with tigers
her name is Aster
and she's so in love
but you will leave her
tomorrow the latest
she's too odd, too needy
for you to bring home

Aster disaster
Aster catastrophe
Aster who asks
will you stay?
but he'd rather leave
especially after
she made that request

Aster who masters
the rank smell of cages
the ones she escaped —
couldn't flee faster —
and ones with strong bars
for the monsters she raises

always purring and stalking
she does their dances
so they do her talking

Indifference being easy ain't fair.

then and now ought not forget each other
the tinker would tamper with time
just enough to connect the ages

he too felt strong fingers, gentle in his hair
caressing, tender treatment
and utmost devotion

syrup soaking
into bread
until it crumbles

Aster disaster, muse derelict
the girl with searing tiger eyes
wandered through his sleeping mind
to ask, plaintively,
did he think she was pretty?

now he longs for her scent
of strawberry leaves:
rough, green, earthy
hiding what's luscious

she only touches you in your sleep
and sweeter dreams you have yet to curse

Aster the tiger-tamer works in the tawdry brocade big-top situated on a triangular dirt courtyard wedged between two pubs and a tailor's workshop (the latter always barred at night). This neighborhood is perpetually crumbling, grimy — but nonetheless it bustles at all hours.

She's called Aster Disaster on the posters, which aren't as ragged as the dusty tent. Aster acts as her own sideshow, shimmying in fishnets, fur trim, and fringe. The real draw is her pair of immense, uneasy panthers. Male and female, all russet and midnight, silk and muscle — truly, neither animal as gaunt as it could be. And by torchlight, glorious.

She guides the cats through their routine of tricks, assisted by a burly "clown." Aster herself does have a certain touch. A way of beguiling the beasts. It is distinct from her fellow handler's gruff camaraderie with their feline charges.

the hungry queen beckoned Aster
toward refuge in the woods
singing along the streams
calling even in the warbling of birds
Elkatron's tears flow everywhere,
finding swiftly any maiden
who weeps for a heart bereft

then and now
ought not forget each other