Paula Jennings 71

Paula Jennings

From ‘Wire Walker’

In 1974, Philippe Petit gained notoriety for completing a high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York. The wire was positioned 410 metres above the ground. As soon as he completed the walk, Petit was arrested.

‘The artistic crime of the century’

This dream started
before the object of my dream even existed.

At eighteen, in a dentist’s waiting room
I saw a picture, an architect’s model
of the World Trade Center - two towers
that would become the highest in the world.
How pretentious of me to tear out that page
and draw a line between the buildings.  

Six years later, for nearly an hour,
I was dancing along that line,
dialoguing with birds,
eight passes between the Twin Towers
while crowds cheered a thousand feet below
and the police waited to arrest me.

Am I afraid of falling?

How can it be since I am in command
of my life? I don’t hope. I know.

I web in my mind a protecting device
that is safer than any circus net.
I love music. ‘Gabriel’s Oboe’ can seem
like a single line pulling me, guarding me.

Of course, one day an angel of the art
might raise his head and say,
‘How do you spell your name?
I’m writing the cheque.’

Note: ‘Gabriel’s Oboe’ is a theme composed by Ennio Morricone for the 1986 film, The Mission.

Paula Jennings’ poetry, supported by writers’ bursaries and Hawthornden Fellowships, is widely published in magazines and anthologies as well as in three collections. The most recent, Under a Spell Place (HappenStance) celebrates the resourceful and lyrical language of someone with advanced dementia. She is a freelance tutor, facilitating poetry writing classes in Edinburgh and Fife.