I’ve always been afraid to fall—the rough 
embrace of the net, the crowd’s shocked gasp, 
my mother’s disapproval.  She loves me best

when I can fly, when I trust the bar, the leap,
the air and all my training.  From far away, 
every catch, release and tumble looks as effortless 

as breath.  Up close, we grunt and cry, hands 
sweat and slip, wires creak and nearly tangle.  
I’d rather be the girl the magician disappears, 

the lovely target spinning for the knives, 
assistant who holds the hoops the cats 
jump through—anything to avoid the long climb 

and quick launch into space where only light 
will catch me every time.  Every landing
comes as a relief, the platform trembling 

beneath my feet, ache in my chest easing.  
If I crash into the net I have to wave and smile, 
pretend it doesn’t hurt to fall so far.

Copyright © 2014 Carrie Shipers. Originally published in Poet Lore, Volume 109, Number 1/2. Used with permission of the author.