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Lay for the Day
14th August

1859: Blondin, the great funambulist, took another of his journeys across Niagara Falls – this time with his manager, Henry Colcord, on his back! He had made the first tightrope crossing of the falls on 30th June, and repeated the feat several times, with brilliant dramatic flourishes added, like wheeling a wheelbarrow across, or stopping in the middle to cook and eat an omelette. As this last gimmick suggests, Blondin was a Frenchman, born Jean-François Gravelet. He died in England in 1897, six days short of his 73rd birthday, having given his last performance in Belfast the previous year.


High Wire

A spangled crucifix,
I inch across the tautened cavern
pitched in the pit of your stomach.

Did you see the canvas
waver from the wind you’d forgotten
still blows outside, and bulge slightly?

It’s your breath withheld and
narrowed eyebeams fixed that support me:
I’d tumble like down if you sighed.

My feet curl and dimple
around the rope, and the tense drums hush.
I feel forward on your raised hopes.


John Gibbens
from The Entertainers

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar