– For my grandmother Lillo Dillon
Of The Flying Dillons, Barnum and
Bailey Greatest Show on Earth, c. 1900
It’s about your eyes, yours
and your brother’s, as you time
your run up the rungs
of the twin flimsy ladders.
It’s about your fingers, catching
and wrapping the trapeze bar,
about the whoosh as he slings it
from his platform perch.
It’s about the platform
and your soft-slippered feet
as they push you from it
into thick air.
It’s about the air,
warm there near the top
of the big top, the smell
of hot canvas, the taste
of your makeup melting.
About the clips that must not fail
to hold your chignon to your head,
about the whalebone stays
of your corseted waist, the swell
of your lungs above them,
the cotton tights that want to bag
at your knees, your knees over
your bar, your brother’s over his,
breathing measured to the music.
It’s about your arms stretched
downward from the fly bar,
the sweep of your legs held tight together
the point of your feet, the certainty
your hands can reach,
will clasp wrists, your wrists
bruised with the seams
of his fingers, then the letting go.
It’s about the letting go – his eyes,
your arms, the trapeze, its song.