Great, great uncle Jerome,
Victorian trapeze artist,
once known from London to Rome,
was quite regally tall,
not stocky, short, like a gnome,
proud of his full walrus moustache,
wherever the show moved was his home.
Great, great aunt Hilda
thought he looked splendid
in his brown and cream striped bathing costume.
Sat in her deck chair,
she watched him paddle in the sea,
bare footed, he kicked through the foam.
And in all the photographs that survive,
you can tell how glad they were to be alive.
There’s one of Hilda as the Jaunty Juggler,
such was her circus act,
another of her as the assistant to a lion tamer.
“Never was scared of that big toothed cat,”
she wrote in pencil as a caption.
“And that’s a fact.”
“Jerome takes his work too seriously,”
in conversation she would often add.
“When we took the show to Paris,
I was chased by every bounder
and every cad,
but Jerome was so busy,
practising his jumps and swings,
he did not see the unwelcome high jinks
negligence sometimes brings.”
There’s one of Jerome
on a penny farthing bicycle,
not long after he retired,
and one of him and Hilda
and the six children that they sired.
Photographs that make me laugh and cry,
as if I were drunk on rum,
all neatly glued together
in one fat family album.