For Charles Blondin
|From "Blondin: His Life and Performances"|
(courtesy of Smithsonian Institute)
I sing to you on your birthday
a song of praise
knowing full well that no one else
has even heard of you
Isn’t he a pop star, a footballer?
Wasn’t he that fascist who?
No, just a moment, I saw him in that film.
Then he must have been a friend of Byron’s?
A Symbolist poet? A politician?
The truth is
he was none
but he was also all of these
for all of these walk tightropes
one way or the other
His real name was Jean-Francois Gravelet
though he styled himself Charles Blondin
and he was first presented to the public
aged five in Saint-Omer
as “The Little Wonder”
And what a wonder!
Circus tightropes anyone can do
with a little bit of training
a harness and a safety net
even the unharnessed headstands and the somersaults
that were his speciality
But Niagara Falls
on a rope stretched 160 feet above the surging water!
With a sack over his head!
Trundling a wheelbarrow!
With a man on his back!
by the need to entertain the thousands
who turned out to watch him crossing
that he stopped half-way
set up a portable grill
cooked and ate an omelette
then had a marksman with a shotgun
in a tugboat down below
fire a bull’s-eye through the hat
that he was wearing
heirs and followers of Blondin
little wonders of the high tightrope?
Where are the artist Blondins
the politician Blondins
the scientist Blondins?
Where are you when we need you?
Have you all retired as he did
to that park in Ealing
where the streams are forded
by neat bridges made of planks
precisely wide enough for wheelchairs
where the nearest thing to a tightrope
is on pulleys in the kiddies’ playground
supervised by trained child-minders
dug in with cement to health and safety guidelines,
and three-foot pile rugs to catch a fall
from what is anyway just six feet?
"In Praise Of Tightrope Walkers" is published in "Welcome To My World, Selected Poems 1973-2013", The Argaman Press. Click here to purchase the book.
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