Oyster Boy Review 02  
  March 1995
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» Levee 67


Walking the Rope

Kevin McGowin

My father died when I was five,
And my mother died when I was born.
And out of all this death, let's take me,

For what I was at age two and a half, and make
The most of it—In fact, let's make the
All of it, ladies and gentlemen,

I rode the flying trapeze, like the great
Leotard, the great Saccho and Vanzetti
Of the highest wire, the greatest

High wire of them all.—This means,
That at two and a half, I cared nothing for chance—
I'd chance all I had in the world,

Which was nothing, for one second alone
In the jaws of death. For we all love death,
When we're alone, or else we come

To love it, with the greatest of ease.
With the greatest of ease! The daring young man
On the flying . . .

Jules Leotard, the greatest trapeze artist
Of them all, could do a record three flips on the bend
In his prime. This was in 1859

This was 1859, folks, he was cooking
And in 1860, in France, I tell you in France,
When he tried to do four flips, and died,

Crushed, having fallen off the high rope
To his broken-necked death in the
Circus dirt, no one would have thought—

No, no one would have thought
That it's just as simple as that in death,
Just a high-rise trapeze act,

Where there's death to the right
And death to the left
And in the middle, like a child's dream,

That fourth flip is a big step to take:
Just all the way, all the way,
All the way down.