Before you died, you delivered
five suitcases to the museum:
a strong man, sawdust,
78s, confetti, backup
wire and/or a lion.
You, the great artist, knew
what was just discard, but we do not.
We assume your art contains all
stray items in each valise. Which objects
did you intend to be magic?
Over time, your tightropes slackened.
Decades decayed plaids. Acrobats stilled.
A clown’s wrist untwisted, brittle.
To make your clown clown again,
we’d need to rip the seams you stitched.
So your circus is fixed, void of motion.
Your motive slips past museum patrons
hovering over dust-sealed display cases,
gawking at your figures entombed.
One young girl has seen wire-walkers
will their assemblies of bone across hollow
air. She presses her palms against glass
and imagines your tightrope-walker leaving
one tower, wire crossing wire, and arriving,
after that void—not still—alive.
Curiosities of Cirque Calder, 1927 on
How you walked the wire into form.
How you kept pliers in your pocket to pinch lines into portraits at parties.
How cord could coil, oscillate, and pivot in joint endeavor.
How you made a ringmaster with just your two hands.
How you made him gesture with just your two hands.
How your tiny circus traveled in five valises across seas to fill rooms with spectacle. Et voila.
How you played impresario.
How sometimes your knife thrower missed, toppling the bloodless, lovely assistant.
How you readied your wire medics and their gauze stretcher. Tout de suite.
How we laughed at this, at your disasterless stars.
How your wife commanded the Victrola. A lever grinding a gravelly mouth behind the curtain.
How, years later, you abstracted. Muscles became mobiles to show how impossible a tableau.
How slight drafts and passersby animated your shapes, spun dollops and drops as if acrobats.
How you called yourself a realist of scenes unseen.
How you renounced what lifted you off the plinth and launched you toward sparrows, air, the refuge of our collected breath.
How you created stabiles too, immobile, yet modeled after ships that rip through oceans.
How critics say your inanimate sculptures imply movement.
How you bolted them to the ground.
Ellie A. Rogers holds an MFA from Western Washington University. She has served as the assistant managing editor of Bellingham Review, as a board member of the Whatcom Poetry Series, and as chair of the Boynton Poetry Contest Committee. Her poems have recently appeared in Redivider and So to Speak.