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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.
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.
My father worked the circus
when I was young,
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
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,
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,
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.
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.