OF THE RING: ZAZEL | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Rossa Matilda Richter, who went by the stage name Zazel, pictured at the age of 14 in 1887. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“Impresarios capitalized on women’s growing participation
in public life as a form of salable novelty.”

How you labored—Zazel, the human
projectile. Your body flung, a shot
from a cannon. Human cannonball,
human. How the money flowed. How

the freedom rang. It is one thing
to reform. It is another to re-form, to
occupy that sacred ground in a flesh
not your own, skin a one-sided coin,

all metal and cold. You began in an old
London church, practicing your balance
across the dusty pews. You said a prayer,
probably. You did not say a prayer.

You did not say. And the Great Farini
made use of your contortion and fling.
How tightly you wound the projectile
of yourself unwinding, unwinding, unwound.

Caroline Chavatel is co-founding editor of The Shore, the author of White Noises, an editor at Madhouse Press, and a Ph.D. student at Georgia State. Her poems have appeared in AGNI, Ninth Letter, and Poetry Northwest, among others.
Explore Related Content