A version of this poem was selected by Rialto Magazine as their chosen poem of 2001 to be considered for the Forward Prize, judge Andrew Motion:


Silence at the Big Top

Trapeze artists do not defy gravity. They use it.
In mingled flights they work their swift machine,
hands seek and grip and they soar
till her small foot steps featherlight on a high landing -
and he's off again, an aerial postman,
delivering more miracles for the crowd

until the day she flew, no safety-net,
and he, happening, for a split second,
to be distracted by his own reflection
in a thousand wondering eyes below,
missed contact. There's more than one way
to let a person down.

She still described a perfect arc, only now
outward and down – a glittering swallow,
wings wide and eyes wide to the upturned faces
and the glint of sun on the grass at the tent-flaps,
and the silence, as if the band had stopped playing.
Yes. A silence -

to be filled with beautiful flying things -
with creatures that live and die in a day.
Let there be a flurry of flapping, whirring, buzzing,
bumbling in summer grasses of bees,
zing of beetles with lapis lazuli wings, dragons,
eagles, tilting to the sun