||[Nov. 5th, 2017 09:00 pm]
A few year ago she was in prime shape,
thrilling audiences each night of the week
with her solo act under the big top.
Suspended from a perilous vantage
high above the stage, she contorted
her limber body around the trapeze,
her muscles rippling from exertion.
She spun wildly, flinging her braided hair
like a bullwhip, and at the very end
she would perform a quadruple full twist
to dismount, the crowd beginning to cheer
before her feet had even touched the mat.
One evening, her hand lingered on the bar
a bit too long; she over-rotated
perhaps two degrees, and when she landed
off her mark, her pinky toe snapped in half.
She smiled through the shock,
taking in a well-deserved reward
of thunderous applause, then exited
behind the curtain after the spotlight
went black, the same as every show for years.
What seemed a minor injury took months
to heal. But worse, the memory of that
imperfect finish frayed her nerves:
she lost confidence in stunts she used to do
with eyes closed, training was a painful chore,
she missed rehearsals. Her coach grew impatient.
The circus declined to renew her contract.
Now in her thirties, she tumbles through
various jobs while she goes back to school.
Someday she wants to be a talent scout
for her home country's gymnastics team.
In the meantime, she tutors algebra,
works a shift at an upscale restaurant,
and freelances as a babysitter.
She maintains her physique as best she can
through a daily routine of exercise
that starts, without fail, the hour before dawn.
Once in a while, she suddenly wakes up
from a recurring dream where she can still hear
the sound it made when that tiny bone
at the tip of her foot broke with a pop.