She studies 'The Art of War' by Sun Tzu
In her jumble box of toys and action figures
are the frequent fliers,
the superheroes and Disney characters
or fast food give aways
and in the deeper reaches are the ones that rarely see light of day.
She knows they're there, this one, The Archer
might have rocked up at Agincourt, the weight on the front foot
the back torsioned against the bow
beside the Scorpion, with a bloated orange, segmented tail
and sagging thorax teeming with young.
Gog, a cereal box tiger and Magog a Pierrot doll,
grapple in a violent embrace,
they've been locked in this for days,
one will fade from exhaustion while the other stamps
and keeps punching,
on other days she leaves two figures gazing
out of her attic window at the cranes and temples
and returns at dusk to find
the two headed blue snake holds the robot by the throat
good, she thinks, they've sorted that out.
The endless permutations of who beats who
in trials of strength sends her up these back stairs some afternoons
to dig through them, they live out their petty grievances
in hand-to-hand fights to the death when not observed.
She moves among them as a ponderous demi-god
arranging their struggles which resolve unseen.
The Archer holds his bow string taught for a volley into the French ranks
the Scorpion circles behind him
so he doesn't see the moment
when the moment comes.
The slack wire
She wakes up over the fairground
thunder rolls in from the plains, the wire is dusted with ice.
A baby strapped to her back rises and falls while
far below children file into schools, traffic lights change
and the forest line recedes.
Forty feet above the rail yards
the wind whips across the canal and
wrapped in silence she stiffens.
A couple halt to watch her, the figure
on the high wire, then more,
holding their 'phones.
Her fibreglass balance pole is
greasy with sweat, the cable hangs
from the safety platform,
a simple harmonic motion builds
as the crowd pulls apart
grit from the fields drifts about the base.
She rises, kicks the wet sheets from her ankles
and steadies herself, tremors begin
in each outstretched arm with
the absolute weight of every day,
she might take a ball to throw from hand to hand,
the wire cuts into her flesh,
from the ground
she is thrilling
dressed in a suit of lights
with a cinched waist,
loping backwards. She could jump from here
but her ankles might snap like celery stalks
as she'd once seen happen,
drivers glance up at the stick woman against a brilliant sky
curling her feet about the whipcord steel,
shivering, about to fall,
the way she now lives, the way she lives now.
Brian Comber (he/him) lives in Worcestershire in England and writes poetry together with occasional flash fiction and short stories. He really enjoys spoken word events and has appeared regularly at such evenings in Worcester for many years (more recently online of course). He is a member of the Worcester Writers' Circle. He's had poems published by Picaroon Poetry, Prole Poetry, The Beach Hut, Gentian journal, Feral Poetry, Dear Reader, Wild Pressed books, Re-side, Emberr and Selcouth Station. Brian has recently had poetry pamphlets published by Black Pear Press and by Cerasus Poetry. He worked for many years with people experiencing acute and long term mental health difficulties and also those with impaired mental capacity (particularly in later life) and that work has influenced his thoughts and writing in areas such as inclusiveness, communication and human rights. Twitter @briancomber