Villanelle for Pierrot

They clap around me, but I can't see anything
beyond his face in white, in glaring red,
his trembling stiff-backed step on a piece of string.
Another roar goes through the crowded ring
for Pierrot, balanced high above our head-
they clap around me, but I can't see anything.
I breathe, as though each breath of mine will bring
some poise to wooden leg and painted head,
to trembling stiff-backed steps on a piece of string.
The girl on the trapeze hangs glittering,
suspended like the sun in glaring red-
they clap around me, but I don't see anything.
I breathe the life into his stepping swing-
a puppet-purpose, hung on puppet-thread:
each trembling stiff-backed step on a piece of string
becomes a ceremonial offering.
Is the tight breath his, or mine? I look ahead.
They clap around me, and I can't do anything
but- trembling, stiff-backed- step on a piece of string.