Under the Big Top by Gillian Devereux
No one notices the night sky.
They count stars or follow the moon
through all its languid phases, blinded
by the illusion of light. No one sees
the backdrop, the shadow that shapes
and guards each delicate constellation.
Each star spins on invisible wire, falls
effortlessly into its assigned position
and not one person applauds. No one could
expect anything less—from a star,
from the sky. I fall night after night,
netless and alone. I trained for this
my whole life, spent years in the air
learning to dive through the white
blare of spotlight; the physics of flight
swinging me over the bar
and farther, a solitary wheeling circle,
all flash and spiral and silver sparkle.
But nobody ever sees me, my body.
Physics is like that. And math always
works without the story, without the trapeze
or the aerialist who starts from rest, swings
downward, lets go, falls freely. Gravity’s work
can be expressed in the equation
W=mgh, where m is the mass of the person
and h the magnitude of the vertical component.
I begin as pure potential, the mechanical energy
of desire and skill, and conserve this force
no matter which path I take towards the ground,
towards the finale. Anyone may calculate
my velocity, independent of my individual mass,
my individual presence. Anyone may admire
a star, though the sky remains a vast unknown.
Gillian Devereux received her MFA in Poetry from Old Dominion University and is currently a PhD candidate in the Media, Art, and Text program at Virginia Commonwealth University. She teaches Media Culture and English at Bay State College. Her poems have appeared in FOURSQUARE, H_NGM_N, Open Letters, Gargoyle, 32 Poems, Wicked Alice, and other journals.