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The Juggler


I first saw him

             from a distance


                               as anyone would be

          with the ease

                        with which

                                     he seemed

                                                    to defy



                      I would pass him

                                        on the sidewalk

                             catch his glance

                                       a nod

                                             a smile



                                    a mischievous


                                            a ball higher

                                                          in the air

                                                over his back

                                                       from under

                                                                     a leg


                         I knew

                             this was a flirtation

                                       I was both flattered

                                             and cautious


          He was after all

                    a street performer

                             artful at engaging

                                            a passer by

                    but then one day

                                    as I approached

                          he said “Here!”

                                 and tossed me

                                         the ball



                      I almost fumbled it

                               but I didn’t

              “well” he said,

                              “toss it back”

                    I did


                               and I went on my way

                   and he went on



                  Amused I looked back

                                    he faked a toss

                                                     to me

                                          and I laughed

                           and so did he

                                       and I turned away



                      The next time

                                   I was ready

                        the toss came

                                     I tossed it back

                                but then another came

                                                I tossed it back

                                                            less ready

                                    and then another

                                                and another

                                                     “very good”

                                                                he said


                        This time I skipped

                                   as I turned to look back

                                                               and waved

                                              he waved back

                                                        between balls


                   So this became

                                    our game

                                           and soon the rhythm

                                                                    of it

                                                        became familiar

                                 “You see” he said,

                                               “anyone can do this

                                        It’s not magic

                                                       its practice”


                                 I liked the honesty of that

                                               and over time

                                                             we began to talk

                                                  as we played

                                         he would show me

                                                new tricks

                                                  but there was

                                                           more to him

                                              than a Juggler





                            Slowly the man


                                                  and I found


                                                        falling in love

                                   and as it was

                                            with the first ball toss

                                      I came to realize

                                                   this was not

                                                                Just a game

                           he had included me

                                              in his world

                                 made room for me

                                              in his rhythm

                              accommodated himself

                                                    to my learning

                                         It was an act of loving for him


                              So we came

                                       to be together

                                 People marveled

                                              at how we worked


                                   At dinner parties

                                              he would suddenly

                                                           juggle knives


                                                                 tea cups


                                         or while shopping



                                                                can goods

                                       He seldom dropped



                            But sometimes

                                            at night

                                                  while he practiced

                                    I would hear

                                                      a thud

                                           and know

                                                      the catch

                                                                had missed

                                       he never said anything about it



                                   It was a place

                                                   I did not go

                                                            nor did he share it

                                       I would think back

                                                                   to what he said

                                 “its not magic, it practice”

                                                       I had not realized

                                                                          how serious that was.


                                         Now he was

                                                   trying new things



                                                           awkward things

                                        The thuds

                                                    became more frequent

                                              the hours spent

                                                              in practice longer

                                                                       I seldom watched


                                              I was anxious

                                                         not to disturb him

                                Sometimes he would say,

                                                                  “come and see this”

                                              and I would watch

                                                                  knives and toasters

                                                                               twirling in the air


                                         “Very good”

                                                          I would say

                                                                  but I was troubled

                                             Some playfulness

                                                               was missing

                                          and he rarely looked at me

                                                                      till he was done

                                              and all the while

                                                         his eyes never left the air

                                                 and I began to see him



                             I began to see

                                       through the artfulness of it

                                 I began to see

                                                  the effort

                                       I began to feel

                                                    the weight

                                                            of the objects

                                                    the calculus

                                                                 of the motion

                                              the danger

                                                            of failure

                                                 there was no longer

                                                                       any magic to it


                                  Now at night

                                            Every thud

                                                sent shockwaves

                                                           through me

                                    the hours

                                            of silence

                                                   chilled me

                                His brooding silence

                                                         estranged me


                     We seldom

                             tossed the ball


                                   I wanted to part

                                                of the spinning


                                                and twirling



                                    Though I admired

                                                      the accomplishments

                                           I felt no part in it

                                                       I was outside 

                                                               the rhythm of it

                                              and the further

                                                             I withdrew

                                        the more extreme the routines became


                                One day

                                       I entered

                                                  the practice


                                         The air was thick

                                                      with twirling


                                                There was blood


                                         I gasped in horror

                                                                and in that instant

                                               every bloody objected

                                                                       fell to the floor

                                         he stood there



                                                                   a single


                                                          in his dripping



                                               he moved

                                                      to toss it to me

                                                   and I ran


                                                               from the room


                                           I heard the thud

                                                          but I did not look back



                                     when he came to me

                            as he often did

                                               after practice

                                       I looked

                                              at his bandaged


                                                hands that once

                                                               I had delighted in


                                    “Why” I said

                                                “Because I want you to admire me”

                                     “I do” I replied,

                                                “But you play catch with me”

                                                                                  he said sadly

                                    “How can I” I cried,

                                                “How can I catch knives

                                                                     and fire

                                                                              it scares me”

                                                “Why it’s all the same

                                                       it only takes patience

                                                                          and practice,

                                                                               I could teach you”


                                   “I don’t want to learn”

                                                            I snapped,

                                                   “I don’t want to learn

                                                                     how to juggle

                                                      hurtful things”

                                         “But that’s the challenge

                                                                        of juggling,

                                            the improbable,

                                                       the impossible,

                                                               it’s the uncertainty”

                                     “I don’t like

                                                  the uncertainty,

                                            I’m afraid,

                                                   I don’t want my hands

                                                              to bleed,

                                           I don’t want to be a juggler.”



                             I had said it

                                         there was a silence

                                                   then he began to cry,

                               “We could still toss the balls”


                                    I knew

                                         I couldn’t

                                                     I knew

                                I would always see blood on them


                                    That was how it Ended

                        I had

                            thought it was Magic

                                     I had thought

                                               there was a secret

                                                                it looked so



                                      I had never


                                                       about the practice

                                           about what it really


                                                    to make it look

                                                                 so effortless


                               Inside that weightless world

                                        there was a gravity

                                              and it was

                                                       that gravity

                                 that overwhelmed me

                I was my disenchantment

                                that wounded him,

                       that drove him

                                   to try the knives

                                                and the fire,

                               How could he know it drove me away


                       He thought

                                     I loved juggling

                               but it was the juggler

                                                           I loved

                                 He thought

                                            I saw the truth

                                                                 of it

                                                 but it was the magic

                                                                              I saw



                                         He thought

                                                       I saw

                                                              his love

                                                  in the weightless


                                                of filling the air

                                                           with improbable

                                                                   things dangerous things

                                                                                          terrible things

                                                   I only saw

                                                              the blades

                                              and the wounds they made

                                                   I did not see the love

                                                                 in the blood he shed for me