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Blondin on a Tightrope

John Terpstra


The light is such that wire shines
arches upsidedown
                                  post by post
loping along the shining road.


From the celebration of the Falls
a current of excitement lasts
till beyond the town ahead
                                           where
it will stand houses round its maypole
make clothing in the Maytag dance
and keep the population up
                                              past dark.


If we were at Niagara now
we could see where this business begins
There it is all rock
                                     water rock
and the water's great
                                     exaggerated fall
A change in elevation's one thing
but Lord, the volume of it
uncontained.


In June of 1859
Blondin on a tightrope
                                      crossed the gorge
For eighteen minutes
he held the crowd
                                suspended
in an air of hopeless disbelief
                                                         Water
turned white
Men fainted
Women wept
                           when, almost over
the hero performed a backward somersault
He stepped at last onto the dry ground
                                    of their thunderous applause
and minutes later, fortified by celebration and
champagne, and not just a little bit nuts
he scamped the way back like a squirrel
crossing the wire in seven
                                          And that summer
did the same thing over
                                      but blindfold
                                      on bicycle
                                  & behind a barrow
They came from all over, to be contained
in the power of the place and because
of the man's
                      outrageous stunts.


Sometimes along this stretch
men climb the trunk
of a telephone pole
                                     like it was every day
They go to play tricks
                                     on the currency
to fix the stream
                                     that rides the wire
that comes from somewhere
                                     deep inside the gorge
that strides in strict formation
                                     above the earth
                                     beside the King's #6
                     assuming the countryside.


Here on Millgrove Road, looking east
at 8 a.m.
                     angles of the sun
electrify the air
                     the bright dominion
reveals shade
                     delivers lines
of radiant particularity
                     across the yard
to house and barn
And from the porcelain hold
                     a commotion of electrons
is orderly dispersed.


John Terpstra's works copyright © to the author.


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