Aida knew it was the sound that would get to her.
An astigmatism has steadied her for years,
hazing automatic response, letting arms go limp
as he yanks leather straps, hooks buckles,
walks away from her until his head blurs
into a black smudge. Her costumes
velvet, the color of flattened crimson roses.
The arc of his arm, star-blade tumbling
toward her, the way he stands back
after each throw, as if inspecting art.
The knives, a rush of wasps aimed “around,
not at” her, he would remind. Knowledge being
the best antidote for fear, he reviews the routine
with her an hour before curtain, point by point.
At family gatherings, edges seem to follow her:
the shine of the cuisinart blade coated in wet onion
or the strange habit her mother had of turning
the steak knives away from the dinner plates.
When Aida’s eyes relax and spotlights blaze,
it’s like peering into a kaleidoscope and hearing matches
strike in her ear. She breathes for the audience,
exhaling with each thunk and stick. For the death spiral,
he winds her up like a pocket watch and walks away on the ceiling.
At night, head to pillow, she can still hear the buzz.
Best is after the bow, when she can look back
at the empty space where her body had been,
the outline he had made of her:
surely a proof of something, and glittering, too.
*Jocelyn Casey-Whiteman* won the University of New Hampshire’s Richard Ford award for poetry in 2004 and the Seacoast Writers’ Association poetry award in 2005. She currently attends Columbia University’s MFA program in poetry.