I dream I’m on the high wire, walking en pointe. The trees whisper around me and the wind touches my shoulders, as if urging me to walk. I spread my arms and they are wings. The right red, the left blue. Two halves of the same bird, or two birds?
Sunlight dapples on my feathers between shadows of leaves and the vein-like darkness of branches. I am both birds and tree. Birds in the trees. Do I fly or walk? The wind runs away without telling me and I’m left standing there, suspended. Feet on wire, wire on air, air above ground, all of us waiting for a sign.
And the birds begin to sing.
Friday 20th – Year of Elders, 1859 – In the Shadow of Almado
Extract from the diary of Helena Birch:
I dream of the wire. My pointe shoes perched there, so far above my head, up in the eaves of the big top. They are waiting for me. I do not wonder how they are there without me; in dreams we do not question even the most strange occurrences. Instead I spread my wings, the right red, the left blue, and I fly to them, the wind pressing at my back as if urging me toward them.
Wind in the big top?
No. This is a forest. Trees stand straight and tall as the poles that hold a big-top, taller, and they have leaves as their canopy. It occurs to me I am out of the cage.
Do I go to my shoes or do I fly away?
I wish the wind would tell me, but it runs away, leaving us there. Wire, shoes, trees, and me, suspended on air, all of us waiting.
And the birds begin to sing.
Sunday 23rd – Year of Elders, 1967 – The Village of Almado
Commelina accompanies me to the forest. To the line suspended in the trees. I dreamt about it again last night, and so I had to come. I did visit Assumption and Avarice first, to ask permission. It is their wire after all. To my surprise the two of them clapped their hands like children and insisted upon fitting me with pointe shoes.
No use in telling them I’ve never danced in my life. Mama wouldn’t allow it. One of so many things she wouldn’t allow. Anyway, they were so excited it didn’t seem right to upset them, so here I am, with my pointe shoes (How do they have so many in different sizes? Next time I’ll ask), standing by the rope ladder ready to climb to the platform.
‘Well, Commelina,’ I say. ‘I guess I better just do it.’
She honks at me, a loud, ugly sound that ends in a hiss. Her opinion given, she settles deep into the soft dirt of the forest floor, waiting. I take that as a hint and grasp the ladder. It’s way too high. Half way up I look down and have to close my eyes for a few moments, breathing deep.
‘What use are feathers if I’m scared of heights,’ I tell myself, hearing it, bizarrely, in the unmistakable melding of voices that is Assumption and Avarice sharing the same sentence. ‘Quite right,’ I say, hearing my own voice this time.
Am I alone in conducting conversations with myself that are really with invisible avatars of other people? I wonder.
I feel better at the top. The air up here is green and filled with light. I breathe in sunlight, breathe out the soft rustle of leaves. I am a tree, tall and strong, and I am also a bird. I stroke my feathers to remind myself of this, and settle on the platform to lace on my pointe shoes.
They make glorious sculptures of feet, these shoes. It’s only right. Dancing renders feet ugly, and pointe shoes restore them to how they should look, considering the beauty they create when dancing. I stand en pointe. Funny, I was too scared to try in front of the twins, but I know this, I have been here before, even if only in my dreams.
I step out onto the wire, spreading my arms. In the corner of my eyes, blurred under bright, dappled sunlight and the shadows of the trees, they look like wings. One red, one blue.
This, I think, is how I will take flight.
And the wire carries me like the wind.
© Ren Warom 2014