Funambulist by Richard Outram

Encore Literary Magazine is extremely proud to have permission from the executors of the estate of the late Richard Outram to present work by one of Canada’s great poets. In the months to come, poems by Outram will be periodically featured here, thus helping to keep alive the singular voice of, in the words of Alberto Manguel, “one of the finest poets in the English language.”

I work on a slender strand
Slung between two poles
Braced fifteen feet apart.
My patient father coached me
From childhood to fall unhurt,
Then set me again and again
On a crude slack-rope he rigged
Out back of our caravan,
Raising the rope by inches:
Now, I’m the only acrobat
In the world to include in his act,
As finale, a one-hand-stand
Thirty feet from the ground
With no net. I married
a delicate lithe girl
From another circus family.
We are very happy. She stands
On the circular platform top
Of one pole, to steady me
As I reach the steep, last,
Incredibly difficult slope
Near the pole: When I turn about
To retrace my steps, no matter
How quickly I spin, she is there
At the top of the opposite pole,
Waiting, her arms outstretched.