–  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.