Tightrope

By: William Fargason

Featured art: Young Couple by Emil Nolde

On the TV, a man is attempting
to cross the Grand Canyon by walking
on a tightrope. He holds
a large pole to balance himself,
slippered feet cupped around
the two-inch metal wire. What poise,
balance. We are watching this together
because you’ve driven over
to pick me up for dinner, but neither
of us will turn off the TV
or stand up. By now, we are invested
in the outcome. You pull closer

to me on the couch. Will he make it
across? Will the cameras keep rolling
if not? His family waits on the other
side of the canyon. Your hand
on my leg tightens when the wind
picks up, causes the man to bend
down, pivot the pole to regain balance.
I can smell the perfume you’re wearing
because we are going to a nice place
for once, that French restaurant
with all the candles. Your neck smells of lilacs,
or pancakes burning. I can never tell.

I know you won’t leave him
for me—and the man is halfway across
by now, the wind pushing against him,
forcing him to pause again—but I can
hope. I kiss your cheek. You smile.
Ten minutes of him moving one foot
at a time, holding his weight
against the wire, 1500 feet up
in the air, no safety net. You ask if
your car will be towed if you parked on
the street. I don’t think so. But we have
to leave for our reservation, we are
going to be late. I turn off the TV.
Looking back, how terrible
it might have been if you loved me.


William Fargason is the author of Love Song to the Demon-Possessed Pigs of Gadara (University of Iowa Press, 2020), and the winner of the 2019 Iowa Poetry Prize. His poetry has appeared in The Threepenny Review, Prairie Schooner, New England Review, Barrow Street, Narrative, and elsewhere. He earned a PhD in poetry from Florida State University. He is the poetry editor of Split Lip Magazine. He lives with himself in Tallahassee, Florida.

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