Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Highwire Artist

She has already ascended the ladder,
above the makeshift stage.
Her attendant, white-suited, awaits,
red umbrella ready.
A wave of her hand,
the performance begins,
a delicate sliding forward of her foot,
legs decorously covered in blue silk,
she glides forward,
above them all, to dance
suddenly, improbably
in the air.

The ladies in the audience, long skirts
carefully arranged, sit at leisure,
their backs straight,
not an ankle showing.
They gasp at this moment of balance,
this arranged entertainment,
this stark leap
into the unknown,
facing down fear, embracing passion,
just before the fall,
the little death,
the abyss,
the end of what is known.


Written in response to William J. Glackens, Hammerstein's Roof Garden, c. 1901, currently in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, as part of a month of writing poems for Postcard Poetry, and perhaps inspired by jumping into two months in Scotland. I found the postcard at John L. King's bookstore in Detroit. Image courtesy of Artchive