Before I learned to think in her critical voice,
Before I stopped eating in front of my boyfriends family,
Before I thought of myself as the elephant in the room,
I was seven years old attending my first circus.
and although I was distracted by the “oddities and oddballs”
I took notice when my mother said, “Sweetie,
do you really need popcorn?”
And took care to look me up and down as if
I was the bearded lady she was just taking notice of.
I pocketed those feelings of inadequacy to save for after the show,
for years later when i’m feeling sorry for myself and she’s yelling
So I could pull out this instance along with the the years
of hiding poems like these from her.
and i could grab the oreos tucked under my bed that she would kill me if she saw,
Do you want to be able to fit through the front door?
Do you want people to whisper about you?
Do you want to be on display?
Do you want to be part of a freak show?
I’m just looking out for your health”.
Nowadays, her voice echos until I can’t hear anything else, suffocating me
like i’m the man in locks struggling to free himself from the water tank
But that night I simply ignored my mother’s comments on how the outfit I was wearing “should be in the circus, because “It’s just not flattering for your body”.
And I watched the beautiful, perfectly posed, and especially skinny Magnificent Maria
Walk along the tiniest rope i’d ever seen,
Fifty feet from free falling.
I don’t think I ever even noticed at the time
how much of themselves the performers
were sacrificing to the audience with every act.
I never even noticed how my mother was dissecting their every move
I never even noticed how being on display, being so close from tipping off the ledge
Absolutely tore them apart.
It must have.
“Tightroping” through life does things to you.