Nik Wallenda Walks a Wire Across Niagara Falls by Diana Cole

Niagara, 1857 by Frederic Edwin Church
Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art



Into a theatre of wind and mist 
            a cable dips, disappears. 
He moves steadily, 
            each step shortening
                        the improbable.
                                    He dissolves into thunder.
The camera loses      then finds his face 
            soaked, focused 
                        on distance relenting.
In shoes his mother made 
            elk-skin suede
                        his feet curl along the wire. 
He tells the cameraman 
            his arms are numb.
                        Weighs the long pole
                                    in sighs, side to side.
And we can see 
            the waters waiting
                        the letting go
                                 the urge to.
He inches ahead
            each second of inertia 
                        a pinpoint 
                                    from which we too
                                                step forward.  

This poem was previously published in Muddy River Poetry Review. 

This poem, inspired by Frederic Edwin Church’s 1857 painting Niagara, was also published in The Ekphrastic ReviewOctober 20, 2023 in their Ekphrastic Challenges series. Read about ekphrastic poetry in Niagara

diana cole
Diana Cole

Diana Cole, a Pushcart Prize nominee, has published in numerous journals including Poetry East, Spillway, Main Street Rag, Cider Press Review, Friends Journal, The New Verse News and Orison Books. Her chapbook, Songs By Heart was published in 2018 by Iris Press and her latest book, Between Selves, in 2023 by Indian Press, Recently, she was awarded 2nd place in the Notable Works 2024 Poetry Initiative.  She is a senior editor for The Crosswinds Poetry Journal



Wirewalker by John B. Lee

Nik Wallenda Crossing Niagara Falls on a Tightrope Wire, June 15, 2012. Photo by Peter Conradi. Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library
Wirewalker by John B. Lee. Read by Oliver Porteus

he set out on the cable—walking
over Niagara Falls
as though balanced on a thread
in his electric-orange raiment
like a brilliant spider
on a silk
a lovely incandescent
Marbled Orbweaver
this Wallenda
a third-generation daredevil
slowing over the plumb weights
then quick as an arachnid in a rush
from suddenly seeing itself being seen
in a busy garden
confident and striding
until he entered
the complex crosswinds
where vapours plumed and swirled
in a wet smoulder
it was then he felt
the breath and push
of unanticipated weather
it was then
he began
to pray to the God of sparrows
the God of gulls
and wind-hovering hawks
as he felt
the nudge and mischief
that does not love
and the ineluctable perils
that blur the burning thorax
of the wirewalker

his heart
and the drum-echo
of its pulse
blooming at the wrist with the flesh stung blue
the image of ancestors
the long drop of their dying
into the damp tear-gather of ghosts
the grey sorrow of rain pooling
in the long veins of an upcurled leaf
the thirsting lifeline
of a widow’s palm
what morbid wishfulness
hushes in us all
though we’re carried
by his brave motion
we also long in the deep plunge
of a common faith to go
roaring over the emerald edge
as we fall beyond knowing

Source: The author. “The Wirewalker” was previously published in my book The Full Measure (Black Moss Press, 2017) and then in my book Beautiful Stupid: poems selected and new (Black Moss Press, 2018)

John B. Lee  is the Poet Laureate of the city of Brantford in perpetuity and Poet Laureate of Norfolk County for life.