The circus had departed.
The ghosts she claimed had disappeared.
The scent of him a gradual vanishing act.
If he came back today with conjured caresses,
there'd be no fiction to catch them,
no canopy rigged for high drama.
First, you walked by one day and
the scent of you stung me and
your laugh planted itself in me and then
you and then you beyond denial, or was it
just a token on the wind
I put your name to?
So much child's play in a day's work.
Their lovemaking so much fantasy, his make‑believe
her conviction, his freedom her licence,
with him she could be constantly unwise,
when he promised she accepted
something too good to be true.
When you arrived at my door saying: try me –
Among the wise ones who knew better,
among office ways and compromise and my small lies
and a slick voice always saying: no –
I preferred my choice.
Always the first to start and the last to finish,
reveller, rampant self‑broadcaster, winged
speaker, wiry drinker liar soothsayer beautiful
mocker tight‑rope dancer juggler with many fates.
A few narrow escapes, a few amazing escapes –
his talent of recovery was catching.
I found you my own extravagance.
Joining the dance, I grew certain of your step
and mine, how to float on air as timed, balance
just as timed, touch down when the lights fell
and of course rise. Under a turquoise spot‑lit sky
your recklessness my compass.
Open in his affections, lavish in his attentions,
and she, one of those dead hours,
having slept too long in solitude,
was taken by surprise. Such surprise, even he
had not dreamt of, maybe, not intended maybe,
or maybe her dreams too insistent to escape.
Since I had given you myself
and since you gave in kind I thought
this will hold. Since I told myself
you loved me plenty and
we had bargained for some truth I thought
this will hold.
Plenty of months went by and he stayed,
after each fight between them, stayed,
after each time the lights changed and the stars galloped off and
returned, stayed, till she would have sworn
even their cream‑and‑gold make‑up a skin
proof against all weathers.
I savoured the calm between storms,
and you, and your gift of mellowness,
and those moments without hassle,
when you took the words out of my mouth
or when silence could communicate itself
without the sky falling down.
On stormy days he'd tear someone to pieces a little madly,
or her, a little madly, because the world wasn't right
or because she was easy or difficult or too silly or too serious
or just too close for comfort or
because he hated her or loved her –
a little – or maybe just on a whim.
When the world began to crack
and the canopy an enclosure
and the silences fidgety,
I pitched my best acts into the ring:
every far‑fetched skill I could juggle,
every miracle I could master.
One of those long dark days too many,
one of those impossible tumbles too many,
he fell crash down on the ground
one act out of time.
When the light rose for nothing, and he would not stand up,
her own riggings jerked, and her balance broke.
I tumbled down a universe that night.
In the chaos I heard somebody screech
and die. Hitting the ground,
I scrambled out of the spotlight –
a few vivid
ghosts at my throat.
Jumping up in his own good time, he smiled at the audience,
and bowed. Having cracked the show –
and everyone a little numb and she sick and somebody furious –
he walked out, had a few gins, and went to bed.
Nothing to make a scene about, nothing to screech about,
nothing a good sleep would not fix.
The world would not come right in my mind.
The circus unhinged, I thought all acts obscene,
each face ghostly, each dance a farce, each flight
each word each deed a nothingness, and still
my conviction that there was
plenty to screech for. And more.
For more than a year she bolted all her doors,
kept all the blinds down,
tenderly nursed her nightmares, fed the ghosts
and continued to rage at the walls.
She let the phone ring like an impossibility
and insisted he was dead.
This taste of ash persists.
The smell of death clings truthfully enough.
So, I must take you at your act:
one mad night I cannot deny,
one death‑drunk night nothing can undo,
and my horror.
Having let the circus depart without a visit,
a stock of hatred under her belt,
with a persisting sorrow for herself,
sick one day and with a kitsch smile the next,
shedding a few skins and a few lunacies,
she unbolted the doors one afternoon.
They say a cup of tea will do the trick,
and common sense. And that grief must be
proportionate to loss.
But what about these ghosts,
I must credit?
She let the ghosts run riot as they chose,
raise hell as they desired, lash out as they desired, turn
savage as drunkards, suicidal as fire‑eaters,
dying with an easy grin, rising with a slick smile,
entering into every dream
In the chaos after the dark, when it remained dark,
one of the ghosts attacked me and I fought, and
all night it was him at my throat and all night I fought,
and all night he raged he knew me as I him,
and all night I pitched my rage against his own.
In the morning I woke, and there was nothing.
Since there was nothing to be recovered, since the ghosts
began to lose their grip, ad‑libbed poorly in dreams
and poorly in nightmares, and since the light made the odd
come‑back and the dark entered like a familiar,
she began, one day, to fashion new dances
on level terrain.
Madness will still have a place. Nothing
too symmetrical, enough questioning in the balance,
deaths well‑rehearsed, no darkness too surprising,
and most things possible. As for sweet light –
I wonder what bounty it will conjure
next time round