Clutching a swinging ring with one arm,
she would spin herself like a wheel,
fifty feet above the big top's floor.
Her breathless audience finding breath
to count each rotation, always a hundred,
often more. Her double-jointed shoulders
dislocating and resetting with each turn.
At four feet, nine, a living doll, explosive
and unpredictable as a Jumping Jack, firing
and rehiring her maid up to five times a day.
Queen of the skies, she demanded a Pullman
for her tours, complete with bathroom and baby grand.
Drinking fountains spouting champagne rumoured
to be on board. Gravity seemed to have forgotten her,
until one night in Copenhagen decided to enforce its laws.
Something with the ropes went wrong and like Icarus
she dropped, leaving the circus of it all forever,
two days on from her fall. Above her grave
a sculpted angel, modelled on her husband, holds her close,
his outstretched wings suggesting a lift to even greater
to those she had inhabited in life. Below them a detail
of two rings, one broken to represent the failed rigging,
that had brought her down to earth.
If you have any
thoughts about this poem, Stephen
Bone would be pleased to hear them.