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Volume I, Number 2 (Summer 2007)
ISSN 1934-4324

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NEW-CUE, Inc. is a non-profit, environmental education organization founded primarily to assist writers and educators who are dedicated to  enhancing  the public's awareness of environmental issues.




Rob Baum

Since completing a post-doctorate in gender, gesture and ritual in the Middle East, Rob Baum has taught dramatic theory, performance theory and expressive movement in Israel, New Zealand and now Australia.  A feminist playwright dedicated to creating strong, desirable roles for women in the theatre, Rob also performs in theatre, contact improvisation and as a circus aerialist.  Her book Female Absence: Women, Theatre and Other Metaphors was published by Peter Lang; she is writing a book on the violence of gender and race constructions.  Her poetry has appeared in anthologies by Vanessapress and Eagle Press, and most recently in Nashim, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and Boxcar Poetry Review.

Circus Hands

My father worked the circus 
		when I was young,
big hands
holding the ropes that wedded ground 
		to a far-off canopy,
keeping the circus bound to earth. 
Red-nosed clowns raced the ring
	mimicking its circumference,
the ringmaster declaimed
			from the comfort of his whip,
	about wonders he'd seen
	right there, in that very place,
		too magical for any words but his.

In those days I lay on the cool floor
	smarting from my education,
my eyes stuck to the heavens
	where women nightly escaped
			gravity, housework, 
			the poison of childhood.

Taller than his shadow, my father
	used a hard, strong swing 
to complete my training. 
In the circus he twirled the ropes
	so strong, so hard
the rafter cables cursed.
How the birdy girls laughed from their swinging perches
	preening when they flew higher than the rest.
They competed for the circus hands
	most likely to rip them from the sky:
for what I most feared
		they truly adored.

When the ringmaster had done his best
the drums resounded.
A fleet of musicians bent to metal shapes,
	replaying a march they'd played 
for the last time,
		every year.
The yellow door opened for birdy girls,
	bodies spangled in glitter and sequin suns
	lips bloody bright
	net skirts whispering about their legs.

The music paused � the women reached
a hand at the rope's slim base,
stepped blithely 
into the loop
where they did not struggle ankles free but stood
demurely smiling as they left the ground.
	Airborne, ascending with pointy toes
one hand casually aflutter.

My father hauled them up.
I watched his hands.

Supported by invisible wires
	The birdies hauled themselves up the rigging
	made pretty pictures with legs and arms
		without panties showing even a ruffle. 
Or dropped short from the rafters,
	suspended like uncaped bats.

Birdies swung indolently over us
				as my father gripped their tethers.
They hung  from cotton slippered feet
	white as new teeth,
sailed mysteriously above the trapeze bar
	wrapped languorous arms around the rope.

And all the while they smiled merrily down
	the more it hurt.
Just as I did at home.

Our gasps rose up
	like the balloons filled from the silver tank.
We stamped the wooden bleachers,
	thundering our joy.
The conductor furiously shook the baton
	urging his musicians on,
but the audience won out.
So the orchestra chopped away at the air
	as if in a silent movie.

At last, 
cascading down the rope,
birdies plummeted from the ceiling
	right into my father's outstretched hands.
Lifted down to safety, 
they tried not to stumble on the unmoving surface,
	happily clenched their faces 
	pointed every limb properly
til allowed to wobble off
	behind the curtained door.

Which closed on my two-fingered whistle
just as my father tied up his rope
	and looked for me.







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