The Acrobat at Home

His unitard is drying on the rack

as he thinks of the girl he caught

above the crowd—how she came

arcing through the air in sequins,

her hair pinned into place to keep him

in her eyes. She left

chalk marks on his forearms,

and he recalls the sudden weightlessness

as he let go of her, knowing

another man was waiting

for her touch, equally strong

and traveling the same heaven

of stained canvas. He never thinks

about the net. He believes

it will be there when he needs it,

the way he believes in the stars

above his house. Of course he wants

to keep hold of her,

but he knows their act would end

without the letting go. It is only

for this he obeys the man

in the shabby top hat

directing them, imploring them to fly

above the dollars and dim applause.

Charles Rafferty's eleventh collection of poems is The Smoke of Horses (forthcoming from BOA Editions). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, O, Oprah Magazine, and Prairie Schooner, and are forthcoming in Ploughshares. His stories have appeared in The Southern Review and Per Contra, and his story collection is called Saturday Night at Magellan's. Currently, he directs the MFA program at Albertus Magnus College.