this was the circus ring and the ring mistress cracking her whip, go on go on
and the lions roaring for our heads to go inside,
we had the trapeze all right and the magnificent great top,
where we swung under spotlights with half a safety net,
often missing our catches, with so little practice,
and no maestro to guide.
I see your spangled costume in the midnight hour,
your grimace as I lose the rhythm,
the set of your mouth saying you will not go on again,
this time it has broken your back.
We came from different sides of the flapping canvas after all
with our slow introduction,
half the music different in each of our ears,
and no wonder.
So little time for rehearsal
only moments between acts to discuss this leap or that,
the twist and the turn, and words fail you up here,
its the secrets and the magic swinging before your face.
We had many successful shows, and the clapping rang for us,
as we swooped and swung across the darkness up there,
each spotlight picking out our best and our worst points.
Where was the programme, we never saw the contract,
we were slow to try the first holds,
found exhilaration in the beat, your hands gripping my wrists,
and the glide of our bodies together for many a show,
but pain rose to swallow the cheers,
a ligament here and wrist joint there,
cruel slicing down the arm, old injuries, surface healed,
the trapeze is a blessing and a curse, and no insurance.
We look back now at the best and the failures,
sitting alone in our caravans wrapped in our circus costumes,
not mending the rents, no more sequins to sew.
There was the glory and there was the final fall.
So it goes with old performers, that’s the life
in the circus...